Pakistani student found guilty of blasphemy over WhatsApp messages and sentenced to death

A Pakistani court has sentenced a 22-year-old student to death for blasphemy over insulting WhatsApp messages about “Prophet Muhammad and his wives.”

A provincial court in the country’s most populous region found him guilty of sharing blasphemous pictures and videos intended to outrage the religious sentiments of Muslims, BBC reported. In the same case, a 17-year-old received a life imprisonment sentence. Both defendants have denied the allegations.

Notoriously, blasphemy carries the death penalty in Pakistan, with some individuals even lynched before their trials. This Punjab province case comes less than a month after an angry mob accused a woman of blasphemy for wearing a dress adorned with Arabic calligraphy, mistaken for Quran verses.

The latest complaint originated from the cybercrime unit of the country’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Lahore, which referred the case to a local court in Gujranwala. In the ruling, Pak judges determined that the 22-year-old prepared photos and videos containing derogatory content about Prophet Muhammad and his wives, leading to his death sentence.

The younger defendant received life imprisonment for sharing the material. The FIA confirmed the receipt of “obscene material” by the plaintiff, extracted from three different mobile phone numbers. Defense attorneys argued that the students were ensnared in a fabricated case. The father of the death-row convict, whose identity remains undisclosed, announced plans to file an appeal in the Lahore High Court. The minor defendant received life imprisonment instead of capital punishment.

Blasphemy laws in the Islamic country were initially introduced during British rule and expanded under the military government in the 1980s. In a separate incident last August, numerous churches and homes were set ablaze in Jaranwala following accusations against two Christian men for damaging the Quran. Last month, hundreds of supporters from Pakistani Islamist parties on Friday rallied to protest against what they say were blasphemous remarks by the country’s chief justice.

The protest call, led by hardline Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) whose rallying cry is “death to blasphemers”, said that remarks by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa in a case against a member of the minority Ahmadi community were blasphemous. The court had granted bail to an Ahmadi community member in February, ruling that blasphemy charges against him did not stand. The man, accused of blasphemy for distributing Islamic literature, had been in jail for 13 months.

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