Pakistan: Court weighs appeal of death-row Christian.

Family pins hopes for release on attorney's novel argument

Ayub Masih has been behind bars for five and a half years, the last four on death row, for allegedly blaspheming Muhammad. One year ago, the Multan Bench of the Lahore High Court confirmed the sentence—death by hanging.

The case, brought under a 16-year-old blasphemy law, is now before Pakistan's Supreme Court. A final ruling is expected soon. The 32-year-old Christian's last hope rides on the novel legal strategy of his Marxist attorney, Abid Hasan Minto, who says local authorities did not ascertain the reliability of the witnesses who brought charges against Masih.

"Islamic law instructs the courts not to take people as witnesses before there has been a report by authorities with regard to their credibility," Minto told Christianity Today. "This has not happened in this case. I'm confident that we will win."

"The blasphemy case against me is false, baseless, and concocted," Masih told International Christian Concern in a rare interview from his small cell (CT, Oct. 22, 2001, p. 13).

Fleeing radical Islam


Although human rights advocates have spoken out for years about Masih's case, the Masih family had not talked to the news media until an exclusive interview with Christianity Today in March. For the first time, they presented their side of the events leading to Masih's arrest.

Members of the Masih family live in a crowded two-room house in a village known as 133/16-L, or Amrat Nagar, in the fractious province of Punjab. They fled there on October 14, 1996, after Muslim radicals looted and then burned their house in village 353 E.B., or Arifwala.

The new family home, two hours from Arifwala, has an outdoor kitchen and a toilet with no roof. Family members draw their meager income from a milk cow and day labor using their three ...

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