Sajjad Masih Gill

Name: Sajjad Masih Gill

Country/Area of Origin: Pakistan

Background: Sajjad Masih Gill is a 35-year-old Seventh-Day Adventist from Pakpatan, Punjab, Pakistan.

Reason for Arrest:

In December 2011, Sajjad Masih Gill was accused of sending blasphemous SMS messages disrespected Prophet Muhammad, and he was swiftly arrested. Authorities were unable to find any evidence on his cell phone that he had actually sent any blasphemous messages, though they repeatedly claimed that the messages could be traced back to his cellphone number.

In July 2013, a court in Gojra, Punjab sentenced Gill to life imprisonment and a fine of 314,500 rupees (≈ USD $4,260) for committing blasphemy. The International Religious Liberty Association reports the following:

“in the course of the prosecution, Masih’s original accuser retracted his allegations and the prosecutor failed to produce any evidence of the alleged crime. At the time, Masih’s defense lawyer, Javed Sahotra, said that the intense pressure by extremists played a decisive role in obtaining a conviction, despite the lack of evidence.”

In October 2015, Gill’s brother Sarfaz and his nephew Ramiz were attacked on their way home from visiting Gill in Sahiwal Jail. As a result, much of Gill’s family has since gone into hiding, and Sarfaz stated the following:

“We are attacked, beaten and got death threats from unidentified [individuals]. We can not stay in one place for very long and live in hiding without disclosing the exact residence. The children can not settle down and study and it is not normal to be constantly living in fear of attacks. It is our request and we urge the international community to speak up for my brother.”

In January 2016, two lawyers from Punjab-based Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD) who represent Gill were stopped on the road between Kasur and Lahore by a group of “armed militants” who threatened violence to them and their families if they would continue defending Gill. In response, LEAD assured it would continue to offer free legal counsel to Gill and requested the appeal hearing be postponed to February 2016.

Gill’s appeal hearing has repeatedly been postponed, as is par for the course with Pakistan blasphemy cases. Though an application for suspension of sentence and bail was submitted as early as 2015, justice Sardar Shamim continued to push the hearing back at least eight times. In September 2016, a new application for an early hearing of suspension was filed in the Lahore High Court. In response, the judge explained, “I refuse to hear this blasphemy case because today this came to my knowledge that this is a blasphemy case and this will be heard by another bench.”

Gill’s lawyer Javed Sahotra has insisted upon the illegality of Gill’s detention, as section 426 of CRPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) stipulates that “if an appeal is not heard within two years after filing of appeal against conviction then the conviction is suspended and the accused released on bail”; Gill remains detained despite that more than three years have passed since the filing of his appeal.

Latest Updates:

  • January 2022: Jubilee Campaign received news that Gill is currently in hiding and remains fearful as there appear to be radical Muslims who are actively searching for him, likely to exact revenge.
  • November 2021: It was reported that Gill had been acquitted of his charges on the grounds of insufficient evidence, and he was released after spending nearly ten years in prison. Gill’s lawyer, Javed Sahotra, made the following remarks:
    • “My client is facing serious security risks. We intentionally kept the news secret to avoid putting his and our lives at risk. Gill is very happy after being released from prison on Nov. 13, but he cannot return to his normal life. The hearing of his appeal was adjourned over a hundred times by the Lahore High Court because the judges weren’t ready to hear the case. Such is the fear that surrounds blasphemy cases that when our appeal was fixed before a female judge, she outright refused to hear it. When I told her that the case had been [ending in her court for the last several hearings, she said she had not read the case file, otherwise she would have immediately requested the chief justice to fix it before another judge. Though the court’s verdict is laudable, it’s high time the superior judiciary and the government realize the suffering of all those accused of blasphemy, especially those who have been framed in fake cases. Gill was 27 years old when he was arrested, and he spent almost 10 years of his youth incarcerated on a false charge. Who will compensate for the immense loss that he has suffered during this time? His elderly mother has been living o the edge al these years fearing for her son’s fate, but she did not lose hope. Her pain and anguish cannot be explained in words, and I think the news of Gill’s acquittal was nothing short of a miracle for her and the entire family.”
  • March 2021: During the appeal (read: conviction revision) hearing, the court had accepted the prosecution’s argument that the death penalty is the only permissible punishment for blasphemy and that life imprisonment is “repugnant”. The prosecution lawyer who filed the argument for the invocation of the death penalty, Zeeshan Ahmed Awan, celebrated by posting the following remarks on Facebook:
    • “Honorable Lahore High Court accepts our prosecution argument that ‘Capital Sentence is the only possible Sentence in Blasphemy and Imprisonment for Life though provided in 295 C PPC, awarded by Trial Court is illegal being repugnant to injunctions of Islam’! Criminal Revision admitted, Notice to accused for conversion of life imprisonment to death sentence issued, Appeal of accused sent to Division Bench!”
  • 22 March 2021: Prosecution lawyer Awan posted the following remarks to his Facebook page (translated to English from Urdu):
    • “The news under review has been published in a newspaper “The Christian Post” about my 295C Penalty Appeal in the Lahore High Court of Pakistan. Raised legal points that the Federal Shariah Court has declared the life sentence written in Pakistan under Section 295C of the Penal Code as un-Islamic and the Supreme Court of Pakistan has ruled that the decision of the Federal Shariah Court to reinstate the Supreme Court Shariah Appellate Bench, Supreme Court O. Declaring the life sentence of accused Sajjad Masih illegal, he issued a notice to commute the sentence to death and directed to send the appeal of the accused to at least two member bench in case of death sentence reference. […] Instead of condemning me, we should focus on the seriousness of the crime and its consequences. […] According to my personal opinion and knowledge, no divine religion allows insulting any prophet of God in any way and such heinous crime is the action of ignorant and fanatical people with worldly motives behind them. The most important need of the hour is to promote religious tolerance by discouraging such criminals and fanatics, while avoiding the issue of religion. I and my colleagues at End of Prophethood Lawyers Forum believe that we have the same position and commitment to the sanctity of the Prophet Jesus (PBUH) as we did to the Prophet Muhammad Mustafa (PBUH).”