Status: In prison
Sawan Masih, a road sweeper from predominantly-Christian Joseph Colony in Lahore, was
sentenced to death in 2014 after being accused of blaspheming the Prophet Muhammed.
In March 2013, Sawan was having a conversation with a Muslim friend, Shahid Imran, when
his friend accused him of insulting the Prophet Muhammed, claiming that Sawan had said:
“Jesus is genuine. He is the Son of Allah. He will return while your Prophet is false. My
Jesus is true and will give salvation.”
The local mosque broadcasted the accusations through loudspeakers, and a mob of 3,000
Muslim men attacking 180 Christian homes in Joseph Colony, looting 75 shops, torching two
churches and desecrating the Bible. Dozens of families fled and have not felt safe enough to
return to their homes.
Later, an anti-terrorism court in Lahore acquitted 112 people of torching and ransacking the
neighbourhood due to a lack of evidence, even though there was video footage of the attack.
Sawan was arrested that same day and he has been in custody since.
Sawan was tried in prison over fears for his safety. In his statement, Sawan said he had not
committed blasphemy but claimed the accusation was part of a plot by local businessmen to
drive Christians out of the neighbourhood so they could seize the land for industrial use.
However, Judge Chaudhry Ghulam Murtaza sentenced Sawan to death.
Sawan’s lawyer Naeem Shakir says the conviction is unjust, alleging that the judge had been
pressured by local Islamic political and religious groups to give the death sentence.