American Accused of Blasphemy Killed Inside a Courtroom in Pak

Tahir Ahmad Naseem had been booked in 2018 by a teenager, Awais Malik, for allegedly claiming to be a prophet.

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A man accused of blasphemy was shot dead in a courtroom in in Pakistan during his trial on Wednesday.
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A man accused of blasphemy was shot dead in a courtroom in Pakistan during his trial on Wednesday, 29 July.

Tahir Ahmad Naseem had been booked in 2018 by a teenager, Awais Malik, for allegedly claiming to be a prophet. The incident took place during a trial hearing in the northern city of Peshawar, BBC reported.

The attacker, identified as Khalid Khan, was arrested and heard saying Naseem was an "enemy of Islam," the media channel reported.

Naseem was speaking to Malik online and when they met and discussed his views on religion, the latter filed a case against him with the police. He was not present in the court during the hearing.

Investigation is underway.

Naseem was shot six times during the hearing, and police officials told Al Jazeera that “The culprit accepts responsibility for killing him, and says that he killed him for having committed blasphemy."

It is still unclear how the attacker smuggled a weapon into the high-security courtroom.

Nasneem has been in custody since 2019 and has been accused of having violated sections 295-A, 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistani penal code, which deal with blasphemy against Islam and "defiling the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad," said the media report.

While no one has yet been executed under Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws, mob violence have become common. At least 77 people have been killed similarly since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally.

‘Shameful Tragedy,’ Says US

The Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs of US State Department on Thursday condoled the death of the American citizen. The department urged Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to take immediate action and “pursue reforms that will prevent such a shameful tragedy from happening again”.

Meanwhile human rights groups in Pakistan have strongly condemned the manner in which people are being killed in the name of religion.

“Religious fanaticism is becoming unbearable in Pakistan. People are being killed in the name of religion. There is no check and balance. The government is clearly silent on this matter. This silence makes the government the culprit,” said Rehman, honorary spokesman for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, reported BBC.

The last time Pakistan got worldwide attention for a similar case was in 2018, when the Pakistan's Supreme Court passed a landmark verdict in the country's most high-profile blasphemy case, acquitting Christian woman Aasia Bibi. She had spent nine years on death row.

This judgment sparked widespread protests with many advocating violence against those accused of blasphemy.

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