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Pakistani Man Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy

  • Aru Pande

FILE photo - A court sentenced Mohammad Zulfiqar, 50, to death on blasphemy charges in eastern Pakistan, a government prosecutor said, July 15, 2014.

A court in Pakistan has sentenced a man to death on blasphemy charges.

Lawyers say a judge in the eastern city of Lahore rejected Mohammad Zulfiqar's defense of mental illness and convicted him for violating the country's blasphemy laws of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Zulfiqar was arrested for reportedly writing derogatory language against the Prophet on the walls of a public park in the Islampura area of Lahore in April of 2008.

Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Pakistan and is a highly sensitive issue in the Muslim-majority country.

In May, a human rights activist and lawyer was shot and killed while defending a university lecturer accused of blasphemy. Rashid Rehman's death was the latest high-profile killing linked to Pakistan's strict laws against defaming Islam. A prominent provincial governor and a Christian federal minister were assassinated in separate incidents in 2011 for criticizing the laws.

Last month a Christian couple was sentenced to death for sending a "blasphemous" text message to the imam of a mosque in the eastern town of Gojra, where riots targeting Christians erupted in 2009. The couple's lawyer Nadeem Hassan called trial procedures unfair, telling BBC the offending message was texted "from a mobile phone which has been lost previously."

Some critics of the country's blasphemy laws say the policy is sometimes exploited to unfairly target minority groups.

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