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Pakistan court sentences Briton to death for blasphemy

Islamabad, Jan 24, 2014, (PTI):
DH file photo
A 65-year-old British national of Pakistani origin was today sentenced to death under the controversial blasphemy law by a court in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Additional District and Sessions Judge R Naveed Iqbal also imposed a fine of Rs 1 million on Mohammad Asghar, who was arrested in 2010 in Rawalpindi for writing letters claiming to be a prophet.

Asghar sent the letters to several persons, including a police officer. Public prosecutor Javed Gul produced in the court a copy of the letter that Asghar wrote to a police station chief in Sadiqabad area.

Four police officials testified against Asghar during the hearing held within Rawalpindi's Adiala Jail. The judge rejected defence claims that the man has mental health problems.

The prosecution also submitted opinions of handwriting experts, who testified that the letters were written by Asghar. The prosecution also used Asghar's confessional statement to support its case.

Prosecutors said Asghar even claimed to be a prophet in front of the judge.

Initially, Sarah Bilal of Lahore appeared as defence counsel but the government later appointed another lawyer for Asghar after she expressed her reluctance to pursue the case.

The defence lawyer contended that since Asghar was suffering from mental disorder, his case should be treated on humanitarian grounds. The court set up a medical board to verify the lawyer’s contention.

However, the board’s report said Asghar was psychologically stable and did not suffer from any disorder.

Several persons have been sentenced to death under the harsh blasphemy law though none of them have been executed so far. Pakistani rights groups have criticised the law, saying it is often used to settle personal scores or to persecute minorities.

 

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