Anwar Kenneth was sentenced to death in Lahore in 2002 for an apologia for Christianity against Islam that he made in the weeks after 9/11. After the resignation of five public defenders, a lawyer agreed to defend him at a hearing. Human rights activists: “Defending one’s faith cannot be considered blasphemy.”
(Lahore) – He has been on death row in Pakistan for 21 years, accused of blasphemy for making an apology for Christianity to a local Islamic leader after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The odyssey of Anwar Kenneth, a Christian from Lahore whose case will be heard tomorrow in a hearing before the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The proceedings were initiated following a complaint filed on September 25, 2001 under the well-known section 295 c of the Pakistan Penal Code, the so-called anti-blasphemy law. Anwar Kenneth, a former fisheries ministry official, sent a letter to Muslim religious scholars about the truth of Christianity. To the response of Haji Mehmood Zafar, secretary of a mosque in Lahore, who -following Islamic doctrine- although he recognized Jesus as a prophet denied his death on the cross and his resurrection, Anwar Kenneth responded by stating that Muhammad was not a prophet and the Koran it was not the word of God. And, in provocative terms, he was challenging his interlocutor to sue him for blasphemy, claiming that God would protect him.
Sure enough, the trial did take place, and on 18 July 2002 a Lahore judge sentenced him to death and fined Rs 5 million, sending him immediately to prison. On June 30, 2014, the Lahore High Court upheld the court’s verdict. Anwar Kenneth has always refused to name a lawyer, stating that God is his defense. But in these 21 years, the five ex officio lawyers have also withdrawn from the case to avoid representing the convicted person in court. On January 24, the Supreme Court asked the Pakistani Bar Association to provide a lawyer to represent the convicted person in the interest of criminal justice. A lawyer agreed and the hearing was set for March 1.
Voice for Justice President Joseph Jansen told : “Religious freedom is a fundamental human right protected by national and international law. Anwar Kenneth is a firm believer in Christianity, and his arguments and opinions should not be construed as blasphemy.” Lawyer Abdul Hameed Rana also stresses that Anwar Kenneth is a devout believer and an innocent person: “There are billions of people in the world who have their own religion and don’t believe in Islam, and no court prosecutes them for their convictions.Therefore, he must be acquitted, because he has already spent 21 years of his life behind bars for a crime he never committed “.
For her part, activist Aneel Edger recalls that the same Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that depriving minorities of their religious beliefs and preventing them from professing and practicing their religion is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan. Furthermore, written communication between two religious leaders who practice their respective religions, Christian and Islamic, should not be construed as an act of blasphemy.