Pakistani Court Sentences Woman To Death For Committing Blasphemy

Lahore- A Pakistani court here has sentenced to death a woman school principal for committing blasphemy.

The district and sessions court on Monday handed down the death sentence to Salma Tanvir, principal of a private school in Nishtar Colony, and imposed a fine of PKR 5,000 (USD 29) on her.

Additional district and sessions Judge Mansoor Ahmad observed in the verdict that Tanvir committed blasphemy by saying that Prophet Muhammad was not the last prophet of Islam.

Lahore police in 2013 had registered a blasphemy case against Tanvir on the complaint of a local cleric. She was accused of denying the finality of Prophet Muhammad and claiming herself to be the Prophet of Islam.

Tanvir's counsel Muhammad Ramzan argued that her client was "of unsound mind" and the court should have taken the fact into account.

However, a report by a medical board of the Punjab Institute of Mental Health submitted to the court by the prosecution said "the suspect was fit to stand trial as she was not mentally deranged".

Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws and their prescribed punishments are considered extremely severe. At least 1,472 people have been charged under the blasphemy law in Pakistan since 1987.

People accused of blasphemy are usually deprived of the right to a counsel of their choice as most lawyers refuse to take up such sensitive cases.

The blasphemy laws are colonial-era legislation but they were amended by former dictator General Zia-ul-Haq which increased the severity of prescribed punishments.

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