Blasphemy Charges: Christian Man On Death Row For 22 Years

Blasphemy Charges: Christian Man On Death Row For 22 Years
Anwar Kenneth, a Christian man who has spent more than 22 years on death row, has submitted a last appeal to the Supreme Court challenging his death sentence.

The initial conviction, which was based on blasphemy allegations under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, is being appealed in a last-ditch effort to get it overturned.

Since his arrest on September 14, 2001, human rights activists and minority rights activists have been very troubled by Anwar Kenneth's situation. He was found guilty as a result of a letter he wrote to Haji Mehmood Zafar, a Muslim religious scholar and the complainant, and other important people, outlining his Christian convictions.

On July 18, 2002, Kenneth was found guilty by a Lahore Additional Session Court of violating Pakistan Penal Code Section 295-C by disparaging the Holy Prophet. Kenneth received a death sentence and a fine of 500,000 rupees. On June 30, 2014, the Lahore High Court maintained the previous judgment and gave Anwar Kenneth a death sentence.

Anwar Kenneth, a former officer in Pakistan's Fisheries Department, was apprehended while he was in his 40s. His correspondence with Haji Mehmood and others demonstrates that Anwar was a well-educated Christian with a command of the English language and a thorough knowledge of Scripture. He participated in a scholastic discussion where religious ideas and values were communicated through his letter-writing.

Anwar Kenneth's lawyer, advocate Rana Abdul Hameed, said that his client's case serves as a prime example of the country’s need for a fair and reasonable legal system.

While expressing concern over the ordeal of the victim, minority rights activist Joseph Jansen stressed that presenting one's religious viewpoint or belief in the midst of a respectful argument should never end in a charge of blasphemy and a death sentence. It severely restricts both freedom of expression and the right to freedom of religion, he added.