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Posted on Thu, Jun 07, 2007 13:47

Christian in Pakistan sentenced to death By MUNIR AHMAD ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A Christian was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammed, and a human rights activist Friday urged Pakistan's president to spare his life. Younis Masih, 29, was arrested in September 2005 on the outskirts of the eastern city of Lahore after residents told police he made derogatory remarks against Islam and Muhammad. On Wednesday, a court sentenced Masih to death under Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, which rights groups say have been misused against Christians since former President Gen. Zia ul-Haq enacted them in 1980s to win the support of hard-line religious groups. Shahbaz Bhatti, who heads the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance- which groups together Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Parsis, who follow Zoroastrianism - said only President Gen. Pervez Musharraf could pardon Masih. "I met with Younis Masih at a jail in Lahore, and he told me that he respects Islam and its prophet," Bhatti said, adding Masih told him that dozens of Muslims thrashed him on Sept. 10, 2005, when he asked them not to sing loudly because his nephew had died, and his body was still lying at home. "It was Younis Masih's only mistake," Bhatti said, adding that a group of Muslims began beating him and handed him over to police, which registered a case against him under blasphemy laws. He said rights groups have been demanding the repeal of blasphemy laws, saying they were being abused by religious extremists to settle personal scores and religious enmity. He said the legal battle against Masih's conviction will continue, but "it will take years, and during this period, Younis Masih's fate would continue to hang in the balance." Pakistan is an Islamic state where non-Muslims comprise just 3 percent of the 160 million population. Anyone accused of insulting Islam, Muhammed or the Quran can be sentenced to death.


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