By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)-- A Christian father of four who was sentenced to death in Pakistan for "blasphemy against Islam" has been rushed to hospital after suffering a heart attack, his friends said Thursday, January 10.
The health scare raised doubts whether Younis Masih would be able to attend the January 17 appeal hearing against the planned execution.
Masih has been languishing over seven years in a Pakistani jail since his detention under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy legislation.
Police in Lahore city took Masih into custody in September 2005 after he sparked an outcry by asking a Muslim to turn down the volume of Islamic Mystical Sufi music.
He said he made the request because guests at his home wanted to mourn the death of his one-year old nephew.
Masih and his family rejected Muslim allegations that he "disrupted Muslim celebrations" and used "derogatory remarks" against the Prophet Mohammad.
However police filed a blasphemy case against Masih to appease an angry Muslim mob who earlier "brutally beat him and his wife" and attacked several Christian homes and churches in the area, according to rights investigators.
Besides Masih, a mother of five also remained behind bars Thursday, January 10, after spending her fourth Christmas in prison. Asia Bibi was detained for blasphemy in 2009, and has been in prison ever since.
In November 2010 she was sentenced to death and two senior politicians who spoke in her defense – Governor Salman Taseer and Minister Shahbaz Bhatti – were assassinated by Islamic extremists in 2011.
No one has been arrested over Bhatti’s murder and although Taseer’s killer was imprisoned, the judge who passed the sentence had to flee the country after receiving death threats, according to Christians with close knowledge about the case.
The Pakistan-based Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) said it is monitoring these cases with grave concern.
“We also continue to speak to the international community about the lack of religious freedom and respect for human rights in Pakistan generally." CLAAS added it has urged Christians around the world to pray for Christians such as Asia.
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