Two Christian Brothers on Death Row for Blasphemy in Pakistan, Awaiting High Court To Hear Appeal

Right now two Christian brothers face death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Even though the Pakistani government has stated that its blasphemy laws will not be misused , many innocent Pakistani citizens are languishing in prisons and new false cases of blasphemy are still being registered. We recently told you about Shahzad Masih , a young Christian man who has been in jail and on trial in Pakistan for over four years for a false accusation of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad. Sadly, Shahzad’s plight is not just an isolated incident. Blasphemy charges are easily doled out in Pakistan with little to no evidence – especially when levied against Christians and other minorities. Two Christian brothers, Amoon and Qaisar Ayub, are currently on death row waiting for the High Court to hear their appeal. The brothers were accused of posting blasphemous material on the internet. Our international affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), is affiliated with an office in Pakistan that represents the younger of the two brothers, Amoon Ayub. In June 2011, a Muslim man told police that when he was browsing the internet, he came across a blog containing blasphemous material against Islam. Interestingly, the blog also had the name, phone number, email address, and the office address of the alleged author. The name listed was Qaisar Ayub, the older of the two Christian brothers. It’s mind boggling that someone living in a country where blasphemy carries severe penalties – including the death penalty – would post blasphemous material and provide his contact information to make it easier for the authorities to find him. Based on the contact information listed on the blog, the police filed charges against both brothers and arrested them. Amoon was arrested because his phone number and office address were listed on the blog. None of that information, however, proves that either of the two brothers actually created or posted the alleged material on the blog. The internet is rife with false, defamatory information. Anyone can create a website or a blog and post anyone’s name, phone number, and address – that is hardly evidence, let alone sufficient evidence to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. But the trial court disregarded this important fact and convicted the Ayub brothers despite the lack of actual evidence showing that either Amoon or his older brother authored the blasphemous content or posted it on the blog. The court simply assumed these “facts.” 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 Muslim friend’s sister. Amoon believes that his brother’s Muslim friends, Zaryab Sheikh and Sheraz Qureshi, created the website using his brother’s name and their address and phone number on the website in retaliation. The court naively reasoned 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 indicated that they were responsible for creating the website. The court claimed that “the facts speak for themselves.” Except those aren’t facts; they are merely conjectures. Yet, based on these erroneous assumptions, the trial court sentenced both brothers to death in December 2018. Amoon, our affiliate’s client, was convicted as an accessory to the crime, just because the phone number and the office address listed on the website were registered to his name, not because there was any evidence demonstrating that he authored or uploaded the blasphemous material on the blog. Recently, the Lahore High Court delivered a scathing opinion against such erroneous assumptions and against the lack of proper investigation in blasphemy cases, acquitting a Christian couple, Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, on death row . In that case, the couple was accused of sending blasphemous text messages. While it was proven that the phone was registered to the wife’s name and that the handset was recovered from the couple, citing boldly to a Massachusetts case, the High Court noted that “even if the defendant’s name is on the text message there may be situations in which it may be necessary for a party to prove some ‘confirming circumstances’ that demonstrate authorship.” The High Court held that “the Appellants can be convicted only if the prosecution establishes that the handset . . . was in their use and they authored and sent the texts.” In the Ayub brothers’ case, the prosecution did not establish that they authored and posted the alleged blasphemous material on the blog. After their conviction in December 2018, our affiliate in Pakistan appealed the decision to the High Court. After almost three years waiting for a hearing, our affiliate recently filed a petition for suspension of sentence pending appeal. On November 16, 2021, without hearing the argument on the petition, the judges told our attorney representing Amoon that they will schedule a hearing soon to hear the appeal instead of hearing the current petition. We expect that the High Court would schedule a hearing within a month or so. We ask you to pray for wisdom and protection for the judges, lawyers, Amoon, his brother, and their families. This miscarriage of justice must be overturned before it’s too late for these Christians. We hope and pray that the Lahore High Court’s opinion in the case of the Christian couple, Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, mentioned above will provide guidance to the judges who will hear Amoon and his brother’s appeal and justice will be served in this case also.