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Zafar Bhatti - Photo: Pakistan Christian Post
Zafar Bhatti
Photo: Pakistan Christian Post

On January 3rd, a judge at the Rawalpindi District Court in Pakistan ruled to change a Christian pastor's sentence of life imprisonment to the death penalty. Zafar Bhatti has been imprisoned on charges of blasphemy since July 2012. After five years, he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The charges arise from an alleged text message, yet Zafar denies that the phone in question was even registered to his name. For more information on the ordeal facing this Pakistani pastor, view these reports.

The recent ruling, which changed his sentence to the death penalty, came after a long series of appeals. In a December 24th court hearing, the prosecution argued that the correct punishment for blasphemy would be death. Zafar's lawyer, Naseeb Anjum, intends to appeal this judgement, as well as the original conviction. However, he has also said: "Zafar Bhatti has confided in me and...is willing to face the worst. He knows he is innocent and God will have the final judgement."

A separate ruling from the Supreme Court of Pakistan on January 6th brings a measure of relief to some Christians sentenced with blasphemy. As in the case of Zafar Bhatti, those facing charges of blasphemy frequently spend several years in prison before their cases are decided. However, Pakistani law requires that, if a trial is not concluded within two years, the accused may be granted bail.

This ruling came as the court heard arguments relating to blasphemy charges against Nadeem Samson, who was accused of posting blasphemous content on Facebook in 2017. During the hearing, Nadeem's lawyer argued that he should be released on bail and urged the judge to make his decision strictly based on law and not allow religious sentiment to cloud his judgement. When the decision was announced, the judge ultimately ruled to grant the Christian bail.

The road to justice is still long for Nadeem, as this ruling does not increase his chances of being considered innocent. The case is still pending in the Lahore District Court and could take years before it concludes. However, human rights activists are hopeful that the decision will serve as a precedent for others facing long periods of imprisonment without a conviction. To learn more about the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, go to our country report.

Praise God that Nadeem Samson is now free on bail while he awaits the court's decision. Pray that justice will prevail in the Pakistani courts. Prayerfully remember all those who are serving time in prison under the country's notorious blasphemy laws. May God's peace and comfort rest on Zafar Bhatti, along with his family and friends, as they come to terms with the latest setback in his case. Pray that the appeals made on his behalf will be successful and that this faithful follower of Jesus will be rightfully exonerated.