Christian to be hanged in Pakistan for insulting Islam when refusing to convert

A Christian man in Pakistan is to be put to death after he sent "blasphemous" text messages to a former work colleague who tried to convert him to Islam.

Asif Pervaiz, 37, has been in custody since 2013 for allegedly insulting Islam and was found guilty in Lahore on Tuesday.

Pervaiz, who denies any wrongdoing, claims that after he quit his job at a hosiery factory, his supervisor Muhammad Saeed Khokher tried to convert him to Islam.

But Asif says when he refused to change his beliefs, he was then accused of having sent blasphemous texts about Islam to his former boss.

Insulting the prophet carries a mandatory death penalty in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country.

Asif's lawyer Saif-ul-Malook told Al Jazeera: "The complainant was a supervisor in a hosiery factory where Asif was working under him.

"He denied the allegations and said that this man was trying to get him to convert to Islam."

Pervais was convicted after a trial in Lahore that has run since 2013.

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His lawyer Saif-ul-Malook told Reuters he would appeal the sentence.

The court order, seen by Reuters News Agency, said Pervaiz would first serve a three-year prison term for "misusing" his phone to send the derogatory text message.

Then "he shall be hanged by his neck till his death."

He was also fined 50,000 Pakistani rupees (£230), the order said.

Asif spoke in his own defence during the trial, saying he was confronted by his boss after he quit the factory job.

But Khokher denies wanting to convert his Christian colleague, according to his lawyer, Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry.

He said: "He has taken this defence after the fact, because he had no other clear defence. That's why he accused him of trying to convert him."

Human rights groups say blasphemy laws are often misused to persecute minorities or even against Muslims to settle personal rivalries.

There are currently at least 80 people in prison in Pakistan for the crime of "blasphemy", with at least half of them facing life sentences or the death penalty, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

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