Christian Brothers Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy – Conviction Upheld by Pakistani High Court
Today, the Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi Bench, upheld the death sentence of two Christian brothers in a blasphemy case.
Christian brothers, Amoon and Qaisar Ayub, were accused of posting blasphemous material on the internet. Our international affiliate the European Centre for Law and Justice’s (ECLJ) office in Pakistan represents the younger of the two brothers, Amoon Ayub.
As I discussed the facts in my previous post here, in June 2011, a Muslim man informed the police that he was browsing the internet when he came across a blog containing blasphemous material against Islam. The blog also had the name, phone number, email address, and the office address of the alleged author. The name listed was Qaiser Ayub, the older of the two Christian brothers.
Based on the contact information listed on the blog, the police filed charges against both brothers and arrested them. Amoon, our affiliate’s client, was arrested because the phone number and the office address listed on the blog were registered under his name. None of that information, however, proves that either of the two brothers actually authored or posted the material on the website.
The trial court convicted both brothers in December 2018, erroneously reasoning that the presence of the Ayub brothers’ contact details on the blasphemous website and the absence of any effort on their part to approach the administrator of the website to remove their contact information clearly led to the conclusion that they were responsible for creating the website. However, these are only conjectures and do not lead to such a conclusion. Anyone can create a website and post anybody’s name and address.
The trial court also disregarded the Ayub brothers’ testimony that, before the alleged blog had come to light, a fight had broken out between the older brother’s Muslim friends over one of the friend’s sisters. Amoon believes that his brother’s Muslim friends, Zaryab Sheikh and Sheraz Qureshi, created the website using the Christian brothers’ contact information in retaliation. Unfortunately, this kind of misuse of blasphemy laws to essentially frame a Christian who is in some kind of dispute with a Muslim is something that our affiliate office in Pakistan sees all too often.
A few months ago, our affiliate filed a petition in the High Court, seeking a suspension of Amoon’s sentence pending his appeal. But the two-judge bench said that they would expedite the appeal hearing.
On February 28, 2022, the High Court began hearing arguments on appeal. The Court heard Qaiser’s attorney and adjourned the hearing for the next day.
The next day our affiliate’s attorney, representing Amoon, presented an argument for about 40 minutes, during which the judges asked several questions. One of the things our attorney pointed out to the Court was the lack of any evidence that Amoon either authored or posted the material on the blog. The attorney informed the Court that the cybercrimes department’s report states that they could not find information about who created the blog. Yet, the trial court erroneously presumed that our client and his brother created it.
Our attorney also cited a recent judgment by the Lahore High Court in which the Court held that it was not sufficient that a blasphemous text message was found in the appellant’s phone. The appellant could be convicted only if the prosecution establishes that the phone was in his use and that he authored and sent the alleged text message. Our attorney informed the judges that, in the Ayub brothers’ case, the prosecution did not establish that they authored or posted the material on the blog.
The High Court, however, disregarded these arguments and relevant case law and convicted the Ayub brothers. This is yet another step back for Pakistan where religious minorities have been imprisoned and murdered due to false blasphemy accusations for over three decades now.
These persecuted Christian brothers now stand wrongly convicted of blasphemy and have been sentenced to execution by hanging. Our team on the ground is quickly preparing to appeal this case to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
We ask you to pray for peace and wisdom for the Ayub family as we prepare to appeal at the Supreme Court of Pakistan.