Pakistani judges exonerate man jailed for blasphemy
A 58-year-old Pakistani man, jailed for life in 2009 for blasphemy, was freed last week after a two-judge Supreme Court panel ruled that he had falsely been accused.
Mohammad Mansha was arrested in 2008 after the imam of a mosque in the Bahawalnagar district in Punjab province told authorities he had desecrated a copy of the Koran.
The conviction was upheld in 2014 and the Supreme Court took up the case the same year.
Mansha’s defence claimed he was arrested on a complaint from a man who suffered from hearing and speech impairments and the evidence provided had no legal value under the Evidence Act.
They also said Mansha was presented before a village council where he was badly beaten and then handed over to police.
Abdul Waheed, the prosecutor in the case, said there was no “scientific evidence” against Mansha and that the police investigation was “faulty”, which led to his acquittal.
Waheed said Mansha, a poor villager, could not hire a lawyer so the court appointed him one.
Zia Awan, head of Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Assistance, praised the verdict in Mansha’s case but said the court should have compensated him for his years behind bars on “false” charges.
Awan added that it is time for Pakistan’s parliament to “carefully look into” the country’s blasphemy law.
Last October three members of Pakistan’s persecuted Ahmadiyah Muslim minority were sentenced to death for blasphemy.
The men, according to this report, were convicted after allegedly tearing down posters in Boihwal, a village 22km southwest of Lahore.
The trio’s defence lawyers claimed the posters carried anti-Ahmadi slogans, yet prosecutors said the posters featured Islamic verses and that tearing them down was equivalent to insulting the prophet Mohammed.