A Christian man has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for sending ‘blasphemous’ texts to a former supervisor at work.
Asif Pervaiz, 37, has been in custody since 2013 for allegedly insulting Islam and was found guilty in Lahore on Tuesday but denies any wrongdoing.
He claims after quitting his job at a hosiery factory, his supervisor Muhammad Saeed Khokher tried to convert him to Islam.
Pakistani soldiers stand guard outside the Lahore High Court in 2018. A Christian man has been sent to death in Pakistan for sending ‘blasphemous’ texts to a former supervisor at work
But Asif says when he refused to change his beliefs, he was then accused of having sent blasphemous texts about Islam to his boss.
Asif’s lawyer Saif-ul-Malook told Al Jazeera: ‘The complainant was a supervisor in a hosiery factory where Asif was working under him.
‘He denied the allegations and said that this man was trying to get him to convert to Islam.’
Asif spoke in his own defence during the trial, saying he was confronted by his boss after he quit the factory job.
Police officers gather at an entry gate of district court after Tahir Shamim Ahmad, who was in court accused of insulting Islam, was shot dead by an assailant who walked into the courtroom
But Khokher denies wanting to convert his Christian colleage, according to his lawyer, Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry.
He said: ‘He has taken this defence after the fact, because he had no other clear defence. That’s why he accused him of trying to convert him.’
Chaudhry added that other Christians work at the factory and none have accused Khokher of trying to convert them to Islam.
Pakistan has strict blasphemy laws which carry a death penalty for people who insult the Prophet Muhammad, Islam, the Quran or certain holy people.
There are at least 80 people in prison in Pakistan accused of blasphemy, with half facing life sentences or the death penalty, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom found.
People shout slogans as they protest the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian accused of blasphemy, whose death sentence was annulled by the Supreme court, in Lahore, Pakistan, in November 2018
An overwhelming 98 per cent of the population follows Islam and critics say the law targets members of other religious groups including Hindus and Christians.
Domestic and international human rights groups say blasphemy allegations have often been used to intimidate minorities and settle personal scores.
A Punjab governor was killed by his own guard in 2011 after he defended a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy.
She was acquitted after spending eight years on death row in a case that drew international media attention.
Faced with death threats from Islamic extremists upon her release, she flew to Canada to join her daughters last year.