Another Christian was sentenced to death in Pakistan, joining Ayub Masih in the line-up of Pakistani Christians on death row for alleged blasphemy against Islam.

Augustine Ashiq "Kingri" Masih, 25, was convicted June 29 by the Faisalabad District and Sessions Court on charges of slandering the Muslim prophet Mohammed. Under the mandatory execution statutes of Section 295-C of the Pakistan penal code, Masih must be hanged for the alleged offense.

Presiding Judge Chaudhry Mohammed Rafique also assessed an additional fine of 50,000 rupees ($830) against the young Christian.

Masih was jailed in May 2000 on accusations that he made derogatory remarks against the prophet Mohammed while some Muslim acquaintances were questioning him about changing his religious faith.

Some two years earlier, Masih had reportedly converted to Islam in order to marry a Muslim girl, taking the name Mohammed Abdullah. Under Islamic family law, a Muslim woman is forbidden to marry a non-Muslim man.

But the young man was never allowed to marry the girl after converting to Islam, a representative of the Catholic community to which Masih and his family belong told Compass today. Some months later, Masih officially changed his religion back to Christianity. The laws of Pakistan allow citizens to change their religion, although Muslims who do so are branded "apostates" and subjected to strong family and societal pressures.

According to a three-page inquiry report obtained by Compass which the local deputy commissioner of police prepared on the incident, Masih's accuser, Rana Mohammed Nisar, had questioned Masih on March 17, 2000, asking whether it was true that after "embracing Islam" he had returned to Christianity.

Nisar claimed that Masih told him in the presence ...

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