Anti-terror court hands death, prison terms to Dir resident over alleged blasphemy

    An anti-terrorism court has convicted a Lower Dir resident on the charges of committing blasphemy and other religious offences on the social media and awarded death sentence, a total prison term of 21 years and a total fine of Rs1.6 million to him.

    It declared that all prosecution witnesses fully supported the prosecution’s assertion leaving no doubt that the accused had committed the alleged crime.

    The court added that as the accused recorded his statement under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, he was confronted with all evidence mentioned in the questionnaire, but he failed to prove any of them false.

    It declared that the accused, a resident of Adenzai tehsil in Lower Dir district, failed to disprove that the mobile phone with a SIM card registered in his name was not recovered from him and that the phone carried several blasphemous content, which he shared in a WhatsApp group.

    The FIR of the offences was registered by the FIA Counter-Terrorism Wing, Islamabad, police station on Aug 4, 2021, under the Pakistan Penal Code’s sections 295-A (insulting religious beliefs), 295-C (use of derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet) and 298-A (derogatory remarks in respect of holy personages), the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act’s Section 20 (offence against dignity of a person) and the Anti-Terrorism Act’s Section 7(1)(g).

    The accused was arrested on Aug 5, 2021.

    Pronouncing sentences, the court awarded the accused death sentences on two counts with a fine of Rs600,000 under Section 295-C of the PPC, 10 years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs300,000 under Section 295-A of the PPC, three years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs100,000, five years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs100,000 under Section 7(1)(g) of the ATA, and three years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs500,000 under Section 20 of the PECA.

    It ruled that all those sentences would run concurrently.

    The court declared that the death sentences awarded on two counts to the accused would be subject to confirmation by the Peshawar High Court for which a reference was being sent under Section 374 of the CrPC.

    The defence counsel contended that the accused was falsely implicated by the complainant in the case and that there were major contradictions in the evidence of prosecution witnesses on material facts.

    The complainant in the case was a Swabi resident, who had lodged a complaint on Feb 23, 2021, with the FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing, Islamabad, claiming that that the accused had shared blasphemous pictures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his wives in a WhatsApp group.

    On the basis of the complaint, an inquiry was initiated by the FIA, which later disclosed that the accused had shared the blasphemous contents in a WhatsApp group through his mobile phone and that he also shared malicious contents to spread hatred and defile the status of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his wives.

    As the matter was related to blasphemous content and highly sensitive, the government issued a notification on Jan 31, 2022, ordering the trial inside the Peshawar Central Prison.

    Eleven prosecution witnesses, including the complainant and several FIA officials, had appeared during the trial.

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