A man accused of blasphemy for claiming to be a prophet was shot dead in a courtroom in Peshawar, northwestern Pakistan, according to police officials, the latest violence linked to strict Pakistani blasphemy laws.
Tahir Ahmad Naseem was shot six times during a hearing in his case in the district court on Wednesday, police chief Ijaz Ahmed told Al Jazeera.
“The perpetrator takes responsibility for his killing and says he killed him for blasphemy,” said police officer Ahmed. “[The suspect] was arrested from the scene. ‘ “
Naseem has been in police custody since 2018, when he was accused of blasphemy by claiming to be a prophet ̵1; a violation of Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, which may carry the death penalty for certain crimes.
Naseem has been accused of violating sections 295-A, 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code, which deal with the blasphemy of Islam and criminalize, among other things, “the disgrace of the holy name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.”
The last crime is the compulsory death penalty.
While no one has yet been executed under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, extrajudicial killings and mob violence have become more common in recent years. According to Al Jazeera’s record, at least 77 people have been killed in connection with the charges since 1990.
Those killed include people accused of blasphemy, their family members and lawyers, and judges who have accused people accused of a crime.
Other killers in recent years include singers, teachers who consider themselves advocates of “non-Islamic” practices, and members of the persecuted Ahmadi sect.
In 2018, Pakistan’s Supreme Court set a milestone in the country’s most acclaimed blasphemy case, which, after spending nine years in a row of deaths, won the fate of Christian Aasia Bibi.
The move angered the country’s far-right religious parties, leading to widespread protests led by party beaker Khadim Hussain Rizvi of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which has often advocated violence against blasphemy defendants.
Last week, the Provincial Assembly in Punjab’s poorest province in Pakistan passed a controversial law on religious affairs, giving the government extensive powers to censor any published material based on vague guidelines that violate religious beliefs.
The law, which was often criticized by legal groups, was under review on Monday.
Asad Hashim is a digital correspondent for Al Jazeera in Pakistan. On tweets @ AsadHashim.