EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 33/09/92
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.
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;