ASIA/PAKISTAN – Convictions for blasphemy, violence and murder
Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – An Anti-Terrorist Tribunal (ATC) in Lahore has pronounced the sentence on the murder of the Sri Lankan citizen Priyantha Kumara, murdered by a mob in Sialkot in December 2021, accused of blasphemy (see Fides 22/12/2021). The Court sentenced 6 people to the death penalty, also imposing life imprisonment on 9 other men, while another 72 people were sentenced to two years in prison. In addition, full compensation of 600,000 Pakistani rupees (about 3,000 euros) is owed to the victim’s family.
Hundreds of protesters killed Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan citizen and employee of Rajco Industries in Sialkot, and then burned her body on the main road in front of the factory. The man was brutally tortured to death on December 3, 2021 because he was accused of blasphemy: he removed the sticker containing the Islamic prayer from the company’s production machine. He had removed the Islamic prayer sticker from the company’s production machine. Priyantha Kumara, unaware of the Islamic text on the sticker, was overseeing the cleanup process for an international delegation visit to the sporting goods industry.
A complaint (First Information Report) was filed against 900 workers at Rajco Industries and several arrests were made. On March 12, the Lahore Counter-Terrorism Tribunal indicted 89 people, 80 adults and 9 minors. The investigation analyzed social media and cellphone videos of 55 accused people, as well as digital media, DNA evidence, eyewitnesses and forensic evidence, to punish those who lynched Priyantha Kumara and burned her remains.
Ashiknaz Khokhar, Catholic human rights activist in Punjab, welcoming the decision of the Anti-Terrorist Tribunal, in a message sent to Agenzia Fides, says: “The incident of Priyantha Kumara has brought shame and a bad reputation to Pakistan. decision as a breath of fresh air to sanction violent mob attacks and I hope it serves as a wake-up call to those who, in the name of religion, take matters into their own hands.
Khokhar adds: “It is also possible that this verdict will be challenged in the Supreme Court. The case should be an example for the future.” “The state must be aware of violence in society and inter-religious hatred. It must keep an eye on the fundamentalists responsible for such cases”, concludes Ashiknaz Khokhar.
In another blasphemy case a few weeks ago, three Muslim women, Aisha Nomani, 17, Razia Hanfi, 21, and Umra Aman, 24, working at the Islamic seminary Jamia Islamia Falahul Binaat, were arrested last week for killing a 21-year-old Muslim. year-old Safoora Bibi, her former colleague, after accusing her of blasphemy.
The victim was attacked outside the Islamic seminary after a 13-year-old student, a relative of the three killers, said she saw the woman commit blasphemy in a dream and was told to kill her every time in a dream. According to the dream, the woman, a renowned scholar of Islamic studies in Pakistan, was attacked with sticks and sharp knives and killed.
Sabir Michael, a Catholic from Karachi committed to defending human rights, told Fides: “This is a very sad, absurd and tragic incident, and it shows how hatred and intolerance are increasing in our society”. there is respect for the rule of law. People even kill for a dream. It must be said that these accusations are generally unfounded: in Pakistan, citizens respect religion and do not commit defamation against the prophets, regardless of their religion. condemn the murder of an innocent Muslim woman and oppose the abuse of the blasphemy law. “It is the government’s responsibility, Michael continues, to take strong measures to create a climate of tolerance and respect, particularly in religious matters, for the protection of those accused of blasphemy. “No one should be punished before an investigation and a fair trial before of a judiciary” (AG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 28/4/2022)