PAKISTAN: CHRISTIAN SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR BLASPHEMY ACQUITTED
November 23, 2021:
A Christian in Pakistan incarcerated for nearly 10 years on a blasphemy conviction was released from prison on 9 November 2021 after a high court acquitted him, but quietly to avoid Islamist outrage, his attorney said. (Sources: Morning star news, 22/11/2021)
The life prison sentence of Sajjad Masih Gill, 37, had been converted to the death penalty on 10 March under Islamist pressure.
His attorney, Javed Sahotra, said that a two-judge division bench of the Lahore High Court on 26 October acquitted Gill on grounds of insufficient evidence and ordered his release.
“My client is facing serious security risks,” Sahotra told Morning Star News. “We intentionally kept the news secret to avoid putting his and our lives at risk. Gill is very happy after being released from prison, but he cannot return to his normal life.”
Gill, member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pakpattan, spent nine years, 10 months and 15 days in prison on the false charge, Sahotra said.
Sahotra said he appreciated the high court judges for administering justice, albeit after a prolonged delay.
A trial court sentenced Gill to life in prison in 2011 under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy statutes against defiling Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. A Muslim had accused Gill of sending a blasphemous message.
In last month’s verdict overturning the conviction, Lahore High Court Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Justice Muhammad Tariq Nadeem said police had failed to recover from Gill any mobile phone and SIM card allegedly used in the offense, Sahotra said.