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‘Insane’ Man Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy

by AFP
Filippo Monteforte—AFP

File Photo. Filippo Monteforte—AFP

Court ruled against Zulfiqar Ali for writing blasphemous slogans on walls in a suburb of Lahore.

An Additional District and Sessions court on Tuesday sentenced a man to death after he was convicted under controversial blasphemy laws, according to his lawyers.

Pakistan has strict laws against insulting Islam, which can sometimes carry the death penalty, but rights activists say they are often misused to settle personal disputes.

Zulfiqar Ali, aged in his 50s, was arrested in April 2008 in Lahore and accused of writing blasphemous slogans on walls. Ali’s lawyer said his client was insane but Judge Naveed Iqbal passed the death sentence on Monday, said prosecution lawyer Chaudhry Ghulam Mustafa.

The country has had a de facto moratorium on civilian hangings since 2008. Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by court martial.

“Accused Zulfiqar Ali has committed the act of blasphemy by writing the abusive sentences toward Islam’s Prophet on the walls of Nehru Park, Islampura,” the judge said in his ruling, seen by AFP. “He was caught red-handed. Police came there. He was also used to utter derogatory remarks on hearing the call for prayers.”

Ali also must pay a fine of Rs. 1 million, otherwise he will have to spend one year in jail before going to the gallows, the order said.

Defense lawyer Kashif Ali Bokhari said Ali was brought to court from the psychiatric ward of the jail. “I pleaded in the court that he was insane but this plea was ignored,” Bokhari said.

The judge in his order said he checked Ali and found him mentally competent.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive subject in Pakistan, where the majority of the 180 million population is devoutly Muslim. Even unproven allegations can provoke a violent public response.

A recent report from a U.S. government advisory panel said Pakistan used blasphemy laws more than any other country in the world. It listed 14 people on death row and 19 others serving life sentences for insulting Islam.


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