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‘Blasphemy’ conviction leads to the ‘death sentence’ for school principal

During a hearing in Pakistan, a woman school principal was sentenced to death for blasphemy. The district and sessions court in Peshawar handed down the death sentence to Salma Tanvir, principal of Nishtar Colony’s private school, and imposed a fine of PKR 5000 (USD 29).

Tanvir committed blasphemy by denying that Prophet Muhammad was not the last prophet of Islam, according to Additional Districts and Sessions Judge Mansoor Ahmad. On the complaint of a local cleric, the police in Lahore filed a blasphemy case against Tanvir in 2013. She was accused of denying the finality of Prophet Muhammad and claiming to be the Prophet.

Muhammad Ramzan, Tanvir’s lawyer, argued that his client was ‘unsound minded’ and the court should have considered that fact. Despite this, a report from the Punjab Institute of Mental Health submitted to the court by the prosecution said ‘the suspect is fit for trial since she is not mentally deranged’. Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws and their prescribed punishments are considered extremely severe.

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Since 1987, Pakistan has charged 1,472 people under blasphemy law. Blasphemy suspects rarely get the opportunity to consult with an attorney of their choice because most blasphemy lawyers will not take on such sensitive cases. Blasphemy laws are colonial-era legislation, but they were amended by former dictator Ziaul Haq in order to increase the severity of the punishments prescribed.


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