A court in Pakistan on Monday sentenced a school principal to death on charges of blasphemy for claiming that she was a prophet. The sessions court in Lahore city also fined Salma Tanveer PKR 50,000 (£215).
Tanveer was accused of distributing photocopies of her writings, where she denied the finality of prophethood. Muslims believe Muhammad is the last prophet sent by god and that there shall be no others after him.
The Lahore police filed a case of blasphemy against Tanveer based on a local cleric’s complaint in 2013.
In a 22-page long verdict, judge Mansoor Ahmad Qureshi said: “It is proved beyond reasonable doubt that accused Salma Tanveer wrote and distributed the writings which are derogatory in respect of Holy Prophet Muhammad and she failed to prove that her case falls in exception provided by section 84 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC)”.
Under section 84 of the penal code, crimes committed by a mentally ill person is not considered an offence.
During the hearing, Tanveer’s counsel Muhammad Ramzan argued that her client was of “unsound mind” at the time of the incident and urged the court to take that into account.
However, the prosecution submitted a report by a medical board of the Punjab Institute of Mental Health that said she was “fit to stand trial as she was not mentally deranged.”
Pakistan’s colonial-era blasphemy laws were amended by former president Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s to increase the severity of punishments. Islamabad has been accused of using the law to prosecute religious minorities and Islamic sects such as Shias and Ahmadiyyas.
At least 1,472 people have been charged under the draconian law in Pakistan since 1987. According to the US Commission for International Religious Freedom, there are about 80 convicts on death row or serving life terms for blasphemy.
In August, an 8-year-old Hindu boy became the youngest person ever to be charged with blasphemy in the country. The boy was accused of urinating in the library of an Islamic religious school. The boy’s family and others from the minority community in Rahim Yar Khan district were forced to flee after a majority Muslim crowd attacked a Hindu temple following the child’s release on bail.
Pakistan has reported the highest number of incidents of mob violence as a result of alleged blasphemous acts.