Hopes for freedom of two Christian brothers on death row under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws were dashed this month when a court upheld their death sentence despite lack of evidence against them, their lawyers said, according to Morning Star News.
Qaiser Ayub, 45, and Amoon Ayub, 42, have been incarcerated since 2014, and their appeal of the death sentence before the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi Bench had been pending since 2018.
“We were quite hopeful that the judges would take note that the trial court had convicted our clients on the basis of a shoddy investigation and evidence, but we were shocked when the court announced its verdict on June 8, after a delay of three months,” attorney Khurram Maan told Morning Star News.
The case against the brothers was registered in June 2011 on a complaint by Muhammad Saeed, who alleged he came across a blog containing blasphemous material against Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, Maan said. The blog was created by Muslim friends of Qaiser Ayub who were resentful over a conflict with him, and they had put his name, phone number, email address and office address on their site, Maan said.
The trial court convicted both brothers in December 2018, reasoning that the presence of their contact information on the blog and their neglecting to approach the website administrator to remove the contact details showed that they were responsible for creating it.
Supreme Court appeal
Attorneys for the defense hope the Supreme Court will administer justice to the falsely accused brothers, charged with blaspheming against Muhammad, which calls for a mandatory death sentence.
Pakistan ranked eighth on Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country had the second-highest number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Nigeria, with 620 slain during the reporting period from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021. Pakistan had the fourth-highest number of churches attacked or closed, with 183, and overall.