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A Christian road sweeper from Lahore, Pakistan, has been sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Judges passed sentence on Sawan Masih in a hearing held in private due to the ‘sensitive nature’ of the case. They also fined him 200,000 Rupees (about $2,200).

Father-of-three Sawan is from Joseph Colony in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore. He was arrested after being accused of blasphemy following a row over property with a Muslim friend in March 2013.

Mosque loudspeakers broadcast the blasphemy allegation, and the accusations sparked two days of rioting in his Christian neighbourhood. A 3,000-strong mob set fire to more than 200 homes in Pakistan’s second largest city.

The police were accused of standing by while Christian houses burned. According to press reports, the authorities defended their refusal to confront the rioters on the grounds that confrontation could have spread the violence to other areas.

Hundreds of Christians across Pakistan took to the streets to demand greater protection in the aftermath of the riots.

Release International partners supporting Sawan and his family say they are shocked by the verdict – which was handed down inside the jail where Sawan is being held. They say the charges are false and will appeal to the High Court.

According to Sawan, the accusation of blasphemy followed a heated dispute over property. Release partners say the subsequent attacks against the Christian colony were an attempted land-grab – to drive out the community to make way for a factory.

Meanwhile, the latest hearing in the appeal of Asia Bibi against her own death sentence for ‘blasphemy’ took place on 26 March at Lahore High Court. It lasted just ten minutes due to the failure of the prosecution lawyer to attend. The next hearing has been scheduled for 14 April. Asia Bibi is the first woman in the country to be sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Source: Release International

Prayer Points

  • Pray the Lord will strengthen and sustain Sawan and his family during this difficult time. Ask Him to draw them ever closer to Himself and to become more dependent on Him through this trial.
  • Ask the Lord to intervene in the case and to bring the true details to light so justice is served.
  • Pray also for Asia Bibi as she waits once again for her appeal to be heard.