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Pakistani Court Frees Christian Man Sentenced To Death For Blasphemy

A Pakistani court has acquitted a Christian man sentenced to death for blasphemy in a rare judgement that was hailed as "daring."

Sawan Masih, a street sweeper from the eastern city of Lahore, was acquitted on October 5 after spending more than six years on death row, Syed Muddasar Hussain, a spokesman for Lahore High Court, told dpa on October 6.

"I must say the Lahore High Court has given a daring judgement [in Sawan's case]," Joseph Francis, the head of the center that provides legal assistance to Christians facing blasphemy charges, told dpa.

This is the second case in which a Christian has been acquitted, after Asia Bibi, on blasphemy charges in the country. There are at least 12 more Christians whose appeals against death sentences on blasphemy charges are pending, Francis said.

Masih would be freed soon but his family faces threats and is in hiding.

He was sentenced in a blasphemy case in 2013. The news of the alleged occurrence sparked protests and a mob torched more than 100 Christian homes in the Joseph colony of Lahore.

Blasphemy is a sensitive topic in Pakistan, and those accused can become the targets of Muslim vigilante groups. In some cases, they have been gunned down, burned alive, or bludgeoned to death.

Hard-line Islamists staged massive protests against the 2018 acquittal of Asia Bibi, who was given a death sentence in 2010 over allegations of blasphemy. The case attracted global attention and led to the killing in 2011 of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who sought to reform the country's blasphemy laws.