dpa/GNA – An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan on Friday handed death sentences to three people for social media posts deemed insulting to the Muslim prophet Mohammed under the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.
A fourth accused, a college teacher, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for a “blasphemous” lecture he had delivered in the classroom, court official Istifamul Haq told dpa.
Judge Raja Jawad announced the decision in the capital Islamabad on the charges filed in 2017, Haq said.
The convicted people can appeal in two higher courts to overturn their conviction and or ask for mercy from the president.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which were introduced by former military ruler Ziaul Haq in 1980s, envisage death as the maximum punishment for insulting the religion or the prophet Mohammed.
Rights activists said laws have been used against the followers of other religions and minority Muslim faiths like Shia and Ahmadiya in the Sunni-majority country.
There has been a renewed focus on the laws after the US State Department urged Pakistan to revisit them following the murder of a Pakistani-American man inside a courtroom during his trial for blasphemy in last July.
Around 75 people accused of blasphemy have been killed since 1980s by individuals or angry mobs even before their trials were concluded in courts.