Four individuals in Pakistan were sentenced to death on September 4th for blasphemy for sharing content deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad and the Holy Quran, while one convict was sentenced to seven years in prison in the case.
Pakistan court sentences four to death for blasphemy. https://t.co/GW3BddqRcV
— James Booth (@jamesbooth100) September 7, 2023
A district court judge from the city of Rawalpindi, Ahsan Mahmood Malik, handed down the death sentence to Faizan Razzaq, Amin Rais, Muhammad Rizwan, and Wazir Gul for allegedly committing blasphemy online plus a hefty fine of 100,000 Pakistani rupees (equivalent to 325 US dollars).
Another defendant, Usman Liaqat, was sentenced to “rigorous imprisonment for seven years and with a fine of Rs100,000,” according to court documents related to the case.
“Death sentence of the convict shall not be executed unless it is confirmed by the Honourable Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi Bench, Rawalpindi,” the judgment read.
As per Pakistani law, a death sentence awarded by a lower court must be confirmed by a higher court before it can be executed.
The Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested the convicts in September last year after the complainant, Umar Nawaz, accused them of creating a WhatsApp group and sharing blasphemous content in it. Following a forensic analysis, an FIA investigation team found them guilty of blasphemy.
The verdict came after a Pakistani cleric notorious for issuing a fatwa to a former governor of Punjab was arrested and charged with blasphemy in Rawalpindi last August. It also came when Christians suffered attacks from vigilante mobs in eastern Pakistan after a Christian family allegedly burned a copy of the Quran.
In Pakistan, where Islam is enshrined as the country’s state religion, blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject and carries harsh penalties, including death. The Pakistani government recently passed a new law to increase punishment for those found guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammad’s wives, companions, or family members.
At least 1,415 people have been accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, while 89 have been killed extra-judicially from 1947 to 2021, including 18 females and 71 males. Although most of these victims are Muslims, blasphemy is also used to intimidate religious minorities in the Muslim-majority South Asian nation.