Man acquitted in blasphemy case after 18 years in prison – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted a man who had been sentenced to death in a blasphemy case in 2002 and, consequently, had remained behind bars for 18 years.

A bank of three judges, headed by Judge Sajjad Ali Shah, excused Wajih-ul-Hassan from the blasphemy charges under Section 295-C (use of derogatory comments, etc., regarding the Holy Prophet). [Peace Be Upon Him]) of the Penal Code of Pakistan (PPC) for lack of concrete evidence against it.

The court noted that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the letters, which became the basis of the accusations of blasphemy against Hassan, were actually written by him and, consequently, rejected the case.

The additional attorney general (APG) of Punjab Mohammad Amjad Rafiq defended the case against Hassan through a video link from Lahore.

Working out, said the APG Dawn that the accusations were derived from the letters that the accused allegedly had written to a senior lawyer, Ismail Qureshi, after the latter managed to obtain a favorable ruling from the Federal Court of Shariat (FSC).

The lawyer had requested amendments to the PPC by claiming that the government should be ordered to eliminate the sentence of life imprisonment of the law and, instead, maintain the death penalty as the only punishment for committing the serious crime.

Consequently, the FSC in 1991 ordered the government to introduce amendments to the law before April 30, 1991, otherwise it would be considered amended by proposing only the death penalty for committing blasphemy.

The APG said the defendant had written five letters to Attorney Qureshi in 1998 while using the name of Hassan Murshid Masih. “The first letter was burned by the lawyer for being too sacrilegious, but he received a series of letters.

"Later, Mr. Qureshi received another letter from Umar Nawaz Butt, who told the lawyer that he knew the writer who allegedly committed blasphemy and revealed his real name with his postal address and a copy of his national identity document. Butt He also said that he had sent copies of the letter to the then Prime Minister and then Prime Minister of Punjab.

“Mr. Qureshi approached the Iqbal city police station in the Lahore lunar market area to file a FIR against Mr. Hassan. Initially, the police showed reluctance in saying that they would seek the opinion of the Ulema Board if these letters were within the scope of blasphemy or not. "

According to the lawyer, the police finally registered the case against Hassan under Section 295-C of the PPC, accused of committing blasphemy, on March 31, 1999 when Attorney Qureshi filed a petition in Lahore High Court (LHC) . Police raided the defendant's residence in Kot Abdul Malik, Sheikhupura district.

"On May 21, 2001, the defendant confessed to Mohammad Waseem, manager of a steel / iron factory where he worked, of having committed the crime," the AGP said. Waseem and his friend Mohammad Naveed obtained Mr. Hassan's "extrajudicial confession" in a paper and took him to the police station where he was arrested.

On May 28, 2001, an expert in handwriting, after examining the defendant's writing specimen, said in his report that the defendant's writing coincided closely with the letters in question.

Consequently, an additional district and session judge in Lahore condemned Mr. Hassan and granted him the death penalty. The decision was later upheld by the Lahore High Court.

However, the Supreme Court acquitted Mr. Hassan on the grounds that the & # 39; extrajudicial confession & # 39; and the corroboratory evidence, the handwriting expert's report, was always considered weak evidence under the law and, since there were no direct witnesses, therefore, the trial court had no choice, but to order the defendant's release after exonerating him of all charges.

The defendant is currently incarcerated in the Kot Lakhpath prison, Lahore, as the trial court sentenced him to death under Section 295-C of the PPC and 10 years in prison under Section 295-A of the PPC.

In deciding the case of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman facing a death sentence on blasphemy charges, the trial court on October 31, 2018, held that it was not for individuals or a meeting (mafia) to decide if any act was within the scope of competence. Section 295-C had been committed or not because it was the court's mandate to make such decisions after making a fully qualified judgment based on credible evidence.

"The presumption of innocence remains in the entire case until the prosecution of the evidence satisfies the court beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime alleged against him," says the ruling.

"There cannot be a fair trial, which is in itself the main objective of criminal jurisprudence, if the judges have not been able to clearly clarify the rudimentary concept of the standard of proof that the prosecution must meet to obtain a conviction," the sentence says. .

Posted in Dawn, September 26, 2019

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1507410/man-acquitted-in-blasphemy-case-after-18-years-in-prison

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