A Pakistani anti-terrorism court in the province of Punjab on Tuesday sentenced two men to life in prison for violating Pakistan's blasphemy law [text; JURIST news archive]. Mohammad Shafi and his son Mohammad Aslam were convicted in the city of Dera Ghazi for having torn down and trampled a poster advertising a gathering marking the birthday of Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive] that had been posted on a pillar outside their grocery store. This is the first time life imprisonment [BBC report] has been levied for blasphemy charges, which generally carries a mandatory death sentence. The men's lawyer says that he plans to appeal the case to the Lahore High Court [official website], believing that his clients' sentence is motivated by sectarian differences.
Blasphemy laws were introduced in 1986 as a way of protecting Muslim beliefs from insults, however, critics argue that they have recently been used to persecute those of minority faith, an argument that has had serious consequences. Last week, the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was shot and killed [JURIST report] by one of his own security guards, apparently because of his opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy law. Further controversy surrounding Pakistan's blasphemy law has recently been reignited over the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with other women in her village last year.