On February 5, 1999, Amjad Masih was arrested on vagrancy charges in the Pakistani town of Jhang. While in police custody, he was accused of burning the Quran (Koran) and charged under Pakistan's blasphemy law. The Pakistan penal code states in Section 295B: "Defiling of the Holy Koran. Whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Koran or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life." These blasphemy laws were introduced in 1985, and continue today.
Amjad insists the police framed him for refusing to pay a bribe. During August 2003, a high court hearing in Lahore endorsed a life sentence for him. While in prison, Amjad has suffered from depression and malaria. He and his wife Kusar have three sons and one daughter. During Lent last year, the two older sons prayed and fasted for their father's release.
Because these laws require only the testimony of one Muslim against another person, they have been misused to settle personal disputes and persecute minorities. President Pervez Musharraf had called for reform of these laws but withdrew his suggestion after it was met with threats of demonstrations by several Islamic organizations.