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UA 344/92 - Pakistan: prisoner of conscience / unfair trial / death penalty: Gul Masih

, Index number: ASA 33/009/1992

Gul Masih, a Christian, has been sentenced to death in Sargoda, Punjab Province, for blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad. He is the first person to be sentenced since the death penalty became mandatory for this offence in mid-1991. AI considers him a prisoner of conscience, sentenced for his religious beliefs, and is urging the Government of Pakistan to drop all charges and release him unconditionally. Gul Masih was arrested in December 1991, a few days after he had refused to support a Muslim league candidate in local elections. A Muslim League activist with whom he reportedly quarrelled is said to have been encouraged by Muslim clergy to file a blasphemy case. Local human rights groups and Gul Masih deny that the dispute involved any blasphemous reference.

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 33/09/92
Distr: UA/SC
UA 344/92 Prisoner of conscience/Unfair trial/Death Penalty 9 November 1992
PAKISTAN: Gul Masih
Gul Masih, a prisoner of conscience, has been sentenced to death in Sargoda, Punjab
Province, after being tried for blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad. Masih, a
Christian, is the first person to be sentenced for "defiling" the name of the Prophet
Mohammad since the death penalty became mandatory for this offence in mid-1991.
Amnesty International is concerned that Gul Masih has been detained and sentenced
to death on account of his religious beliefs. The organization is urging the Government
of Pakistan to release him immediately and unconditionally, and to ensure that all
charges against him are dropped.
Gul Masih was arrested on 10 December 1991, a few days after he had refused to support
a Muslim League candidate in local elections. Sajjad Hussain, a Muslim activist and
a campaign worker for the Muslim League is reported to have quarrelled with Gul Masih
and local Muslim clergy encouraged him to file a case of blasphemy against Gul Masih.
Local human rights groups and Gul Masih maintain that the dispute did not involve
any blasphemous reference to the Prophet Mohammad.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Charges of blasphemy have been used by Muslim activists in Pakistan against other
religious minorities. Amnesty International knows of more than a dozen cases of alleged
blasphemy pending before courts. Prisoners charged with blasphemy cannot be released
on bail. Reports received by Amnesty International indicate that in all of these
cases there has been a strong background of personal enmity on the part of the
complainant against the member of the religious minority accused of blasphemy.
Amnesty International opposes any legislation under which people are held as prisoners
of conscience on account of their political affiliation, religious beliefs, ethnic
origin, sex, colour or language. In mid-1991 when the Pakistan Federal Cabinet decided
to amend Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code to make the death penalty mandatory
for the offence of "defiling" the name of the Prophet Mohammad, Amnesty International
expressed its concern that the amendment could be used against members of religious
minorities for the exercise of their religious beliefs, and urged the Government
of Pakistan to withdraw the amendment.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/express and airmail letters
either in English or in your own language:
- expressing concern that Gul Masih has been falsely accused of blasphemy by a Muslim
activist following a quarrel that did not involve any blasphemous reference to the
Prophet Mohammad, and may not have received a fair trial;
- expressing concern that the law on blasphemy makes the death penalty mandatory,
and expressing Amnesty International's opposition to the death penalty as a form
of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment;
- expressing concern that Gul Masih has been detained and sentenced to death on account
of his religious beliefs;
- urging the government to release Gul Masih immediately and unconditionally.
Page 2 of UA 344/92
APPEALS TO
1) President Ghulam Ishaq Khan Salutation: Dear President
The Presidency
Murree Brewery Road
Rawalpindi
Pakistan
Telegrams: President, Rawalpindi, President's House, Pakistan
Telexes: 54058 PSPUB PK
2) Mian Nawaz Sharif Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
Prime Minister,
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Office of the Prime Minister
Islamabad
Pakistan
Telegrams: Prime Minister, Islamabad, Pakistan
3) Chaudhary Abdul Ghafoor Salutation: Dear Minister
Ministry of Law & Justice
Pak Secretariat, Blocks R & S
Islamabad
Pakistan
Telegrams: Minister Law and Justice, Islamabad, Pakistan
4) Aziz A Munshi Salutation: Dear Attorney General
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Islamabad
Pakistan
Telegrams: Attorney General, Islamabad, Pakistan
COPIES OF YOUR APPEALS TO:
Mohammad Afzal Zullah
Chief Justice
Supreme Court
Rawalpindi
Pakistan
diplomatic representatives of Pakistan accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your
section office, if sending appeals after 21 December 1992.

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