Court sentences man to death for blasphemy

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A federal high court sitting in Abuja
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Pakistan court sentences man to death for blasphemy

 

After being charged with posting blasphemous material in a WhatsApp group, a Muslim man was found guilty and given the death penalty by an anti-terrorism court in northwest Pakistan.

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In Pakistan, a country with a majority of Muslims, blasphemy is a very sensitive topic; even unproven accusations can incite mobs and violence.

 

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The court in Peshawar found Syed Muhammad Zeeshan guilty on Friday under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act and the Anti-Terrorist Act.

 

The court order, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, stated: “Accused Syed Muhammad Zeeshan, son of Syed Zakaullah in custody, has been convicted and sentenced after being found guilty.”

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Zeeshan, a citizen of the city of Mardan in Pakistan’s northwest, was also fined 1.2 million rupees ($4,300) and given a total of 23 years in prison.

 

He may file an appeal.

 

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According to Saeed’s attorney, Ibrar Hussain, the case started when Muhammad Saeed, a resident of Talagang in Punjab province, filed a report with the Federal Investigation Agency two years ago accusing Zeeshan of posting offensive content in a WhatsApp group.

 

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He claimed that the “FIA had taken Zeeshan’s cell phone and its forensic examination had established his guilt.”

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Although blasphemy is prohibited by Pakistani law, the death penalty has never been used to punish the crime.

 

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Rights advocates have cautioned that religious marginalized groups, particularly Christians, are frequently caught in the crossfire and that blasphemy accusations are frequently used to settle personal scores, even though many cases involve Muslims accusing other Muslims.

 

In the past 20 years, blasphemy charges have been brought against 774 Muslims and 760 members of various religious groups in Pakistan, according to the National Commission of Justice and Peace, a human rights and legal aid organisation.

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