A man accused of blasphemy against Islam was shot dead in a courtroom in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, police officials say, the latest violence associated with Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws.
Tahir Ahmad Naseem was shot six times during a hearing in his case at a district court on Wednesday. Naseem had been in police custody since 2018 when he was accused of having committed blasphemy by claiming to be a prophet – a violation of Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws that can carry the death penalty for certain offences.
The U.S. State Department identified the victim as a U.S. citizen, and urged Pakistan “to take immediate action and pursue reforms that will prevent such a shameful tragedy from happening again.”
Naseem was accused of having violated sections 295-A, 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistani penal code, which deal with blasphemy against Islam, criminalising, among other things, “defiling the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad”.
Blasphemy is an extremely controversial issue in Pakistan, where people convicted of the crime can be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty. In Islam, blasphemy can include many things like insulting the Prophet or the Koran, claiming to be a prophet or messenger of God after or in the likeness of their prophet Mohammed (S.A.W).