Pakistan blasphemy: Gunman shoots accused dead in court

A man accused of blasphemy in Pakistan has been shot dead in a courtroom during his trial in the northern city of Peshawar.


By Secunder Kermani


BBC News (29.07.2020) – – He had been facing charges for allegedly claiming to be a prophet.


Blasphemy is legally punishable by death. No-one has been executed for it by the state but accusations can often lead to violent attacks.


The victim, Tahir Ahmad Naseem, was accused of blasphemy in 2018 by a teenager.


He was killed at a trial hearing on Wednesday morning. Video shared on social media shows his body slumped over the court’s seats.


His attacker was arrested at the scene. Another video shows him in handcuffs, shouting angrily that his victim was an “enemy of Islam”.


Mr Naseem was first accused of blasphemy by Awais Malik, a madrassa student from Peshawar. Mr Naseem had struck up an online conversation with him whilst living in the United States.


Mr Malik told the BBC he had then met Mr Naseem in a shopping mall in Peshawar to discuss his views on religion, after which he filed a case against him with the police.


He said he had not been present at court, and had no knowledge of the shooting. The suspect arrested for the killing has been named as Khalid. It is not clear how he managed to bring a weapon into the court premises.


Mr Naseem was born into the persecuted Ahmadi sect, according to a spokesman for the community. But he added that he had left the sect and claimed to be a prophet himself.


The community leader suggested Mr Naseem had been mentally ill – he had uploaded videos to YouTube claiming to be a messiah.


Human rights groups say Pakistan’s hardline blasphemy laws disproportionately target minority communities and encourage vigilante attacks. Dozens of people accused of being blasphemers have been killed by angry mobs or militants in recent years.


In an unrelated development, a hashtag campaign accusing a user of committing blasphemy has been trending on Twitter in the country.


But other users, concerned about the individual’s safety, have been actively trying to drown out the accusations, using a separate hashtag -#btsarmypakistan – a reference to fans of the extremely popular Korean pop group BTS.


One of those involved in the counter-trend told the BBC it was an attempt to “resist right-wing trolls taking over the internet and possibly killing someone in the process”.


Hashtags related to BTS were also used during recent Black Lives Matter protests in the US to drown out racist online counter-campaigns.

CHINA: Xinjiang authorities sentence Uyghur philanthropist to death for unsanctioned Hajj

Abdughapar Abdurusul’s wife is believed to have died in detention and his eldest son is missing.


Radio Free Asia (21.11.2018) – – Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have sentenced a prominent Uyghur businessman and philanthropist to death for taking an unsanctioned Muslim holy pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, according to his brother.


Abdughapar Abdurusul, of Bakyol district in Ili Kazakh (in Chinese, Yili Hasake) Autonomous Prefecture’s Ghulja (Yining) city, “was arrested in July or August,” his brother Abdusattar Abdurusul recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service, citing Abdughapar’s Kazakh business partners living in Kazakhstan’s Almaty city.


“The latest I heard is that my brother has been given a death sentence and he is waiting for his execution to be carried out … The reason is that he went to perform hajj on his own [instead of joining a state-sanctioned tour group],” he added, referring to the annual Muslim holy pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.


According to Abdusattar Abdurusul, his brother was provided with “no lawyer” during a “group trial,” suggesting he had been illegally sentenced to death. All death sentences should be reviewed by China’s Supreme Court in Beijing, but it is unclear whether Abdughapar Abdurusul’s case has been examined.


Abdughapar Abdurusul, a 42-year-old father of four, owns several shops and businesses, and multiple properties, his brother said, and had used some of the money he earned to build a mosque for the local community in recent years.


Abdughapar Abdurusul had also sold an old family home for around 1 million yuan (U.S. $144,000) in April or May, and was living comfortably before he was arrested and all of his family’s assets—totaling around 100 million yuan (U.S. $14.4 million)—were seized, he said.


“He is a philanthropist who enjoyed helping society … [but] now the government has taken away everything and destroyed his family’s lives completely,” Abdusattar Abdurusul said.


Abdughapar Abdurusul’s eldest son Awzer was detained in 2017 after returning home from studying in Turkey, and his wife Merhaba Hajim was taken into custody in April this year, he added.


Abdusattar Abdurusul said his sister Sayipjamal has been missing for “a long time” and is thought to also have been detained, while several of Abdughapar Abdurusul’s friends “have been sentenced to more than 18 years in prison.”


Death in custody


Staff members at the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture’s Public Security Bureau and local police stations in Ghulja city refused to answer questions or hung up the phone when contacted by RFA about Abdughapar Abdurusul’s case.


But a long-time associate who worked with Abdughapar Abdurusul in Ili Kazakh’s Qorghas (Huocheng) county and is now living in exile told RFA he had also heard of the businessman’s sentence from local sources, and that his wife had died in custody.


“A friend of mine called me, saying that our mutual friend Abdughapar Hajim had been sentenced to death,” the associate said, speaking on condition of anonymity and using an honorific title to denote that Abdughapar Abdurusul had completed a pilgrimage to Mecca.


“[I also heard] that his wife had already died in prison,” he added.


The associate said that “more than 50” people in Abdughapar Abdurusul’s circle of friends—including several police officers—had been arrested and imprisoned before him, but that he was the only to have been sentenced to death.


When asked why Abdughapar Abdurusul might have been given such a harsh sentence, the associate said he was unsure, “but the Chinese government is killing Uyghurs for no particular reason.”


A former close neighbor of Abdughapar Abdurusul’s named Turghunay, who is now living in exile in Turkey, also told RFA she had heard of his sentence and that Merhaba Hajim had died in detention.


“I heard that Abdughapar Hajim was arrested in May or June and, prior to that, his eldest son Awzer had been arrested, followed by his wife, Merhaba Hajim,” she said.


“I don’t know if he was arrested because of his wealth or having gone on hajj, but when I heard the news about his death sentence … I was devastated.”


Turghunay said that Merhaba Hajim had “died in a [political] re-education camp,” where authorities have detained Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas throughout the XUAR since April 2017.


“The death certificate was given to the family by the authorities,” she said, adding that “no one knows what has happened to their young children.”


Camp network


While Beijing initially denied the existence of re-education camps, the Uyghur chairman of Xinjiang’s provincial government, Shohrat Zakir, told China’s official Xinhua news agency last month that the facilities are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uyghurs.


Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations, however, has shown that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.


Adrian Zenz, a lecturer in social research methods at the Germany-based European School of Culture and Theology, has said that some 1.1 million people are or have been detained in the camps—equating to 10 to 11 percent of the adult Muslim population of the XUAR.


U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert recently said the U.S. government was “deeply troubled” by the crackdown on Uyghurs, while U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley described it last month as “the largest internment of civilians in the world today” and “straight out of George Orwell,” during a speech at the Chiefs of Defense Conference Dinner in Washington.


Reported by Gulchehra Hoja for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.



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EGYPT: Military court sentences 17 people to death for the attack on Coptic churches

Sentenced another 19 defendants to life imprisonment or several years in prison. For the judges they are guilty of membership of the Islamic State. Activists and NGOs against the trial in a military court. “Horrible” attacks, but an “unjust” proceeding do not guarantee justice.

AsiaNews (12.10.2018) – – Cairo – A military court in Egypt has sentenced to death 17 people, held responsible for a series of attacks against some Coptic Christian churches in the country, which caused dozens of victims and wounded between 2016 and 2017 to the Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta.


According to Mena State Agency, in the context of criminal proceedings another 19 defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment or sentences between 10 and 15 years in prison.


The Islamic State (IS, ex Isis) had claimed responsibility for the attacks, pointing out that the suicide bombers and assailants who blew themselves up inside the churches were militants or affiliated to the jihadist group.


The cases that were the object of the trial concerned in particular the attacks against three Christian places of worship: the Coptic Orthodox church of Saint Peter’s in the Abaseya district in Cairo, which caused 29 victims; the bombings of April 2017 at Coptic churches in Tanta and Alessandria, where 45 people died.


Anonymous sources of the Egyptian magistracy report that the condemned were also found guilty of membership of the Islamic State; some of them also for an attack launched on January 16 last year against a police checkpoint in Naqab, a desert area in the south-west of Egypt.


During the initial stages of the trial, the Minister of Justice Nabil Sadeq had requested the referral of the 48 defendants to the military court, on charges of having created terrorist cells in the governorates of Cairo and Mena. A choice criticized by some activists and NGOs, who judge the whole process “unjust”.


There is no doubt that the defendants have committed “horrible crimes,” Amnesty International says in a statement, but the death sentence at the conclusion of an “unjust military trial” does not do justice. They deserved a “civil proceeding”.


In a nation of almost 95 million people with a large Muslim majority, Coptic Christians are a substantial minority of around 10% of the total population. Between 2016 and 2017 the Land of the Pharaohs recorded a series of bloody attacks, which involved the Christian community itself.


The escalation of violence led to fears of the cancellation of Pope Francis’ Apostolic journey to Egypt, April last year. However, the pontiff respected the program by meeting the president of the Republic, the great imam of al-Azhar and celebrating mass in front of tens of thousands of faithful.



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Mauritania blogger sentenced to death is released on appeal

The Washington Post (09.11.2017) – – An appeals court in Mauritania has released a blogger who had been sentenced to death for an online post deemed blasphemous by authorities.


The court in Nouadhibou city on Thursday sentenced Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir to two years in prison and a fine. He has already served nearly four years, so he was released.


Mkhaitir was arrested in January 2014 and charged with apostasy over a Facebook post that condemned the use of religion to justify discrimination against his caste.


It was the first death sentence handed down for apostasy in Mauritania since the African nation’s independence in 1960.


Amnesty International welcomed the new ruling and called on authorities to ensure that he lives without threat of physical attack.


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PAKISTAN: Pakistan asks Facebook and Twitter to help identify blasphemers

Companies approached in effort to locate Pakistanis at home or abroad so they can be prosecuted or potentially extradited


By Alex Hern and agencies


The Guardian (17.03.2017) – – Pakistan has asked Facebook and Twitter to help identify Pakistanis suspected of blasphemy so it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.

Under the country’s strict blasphemy laws, anyone found to have insulted Islam or the prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.

The interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said an official in Pakistan’s Washington embassy had approached the two social media companies in an effort to identify Pakistanis, either within the country or abroad, who recently shared material deemed offensive to Islam.

He said Pakistani authorities had identified 11 people for questioning over alleged blasphemy and would seek the extradition of anyone living abroad.

Facebook said it reviews all government requests carefully, “with the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users”.

“We disclose information about accounts solely in accordance with our terms of service and applicable law. A mutual legal assistance treaty or other formal request may be required for international requests, and we include these in our government requests report,” which is publicised each year, it said in a statement.

Facebook has often struggled to deal with the varying cultural norms around censorship in the hundred-plus countries where it operates. In a sprawling manifesto released in February, the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, described one possible solution to the difficulty: “combine creating a large-scale democratic process to determine standards with AI to help enforce them”.

In that plan, Zuckerberg said, Facebook would ask users all over the world to vote on what sort of content they found acceptable to see on their social media feeds. Content which breached those personal and national standards would then be automatically flagged by an artificial intelligence, and removed without the need for human intervention.

Twitter declined to comment.


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