Pakistan’s highest court on Thursday acquitted a Muslim man who’s been imprisoned for 17 years and sentenced to death after being accused of authoring blasphemous letters.
A three-judge bench on the Pakistan Supreme Court exonerated Wajih-ul-Hassan, his lawyer told AFP.
The lawyer, Nadeem Anthony, added that Hassan is expected to be released in the coming days.
“Everyone was crying with happiness,” the lawyer was quoted as saying.
Hassan was accused in 1998 of writing and sending blasphemous letters to a Muslim lawyer. In Pakistan, insulting Islam or its prophet Muhammad is a crime that is punishable by death or life in prison under the majority-Muslim nation’s notorious blasphemy laws.
Hassan was convicted and sentenced to death under section 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code.
According to the Pakistani news outlet Dawn.com, the court ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the letters at the center of Hassan’s blasphemy allegation were actually written by him.
Rights activists have long condemned Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as they’ve been abused by majority Sunni Muslims to settle personal scores or persecute religious minorities.
Hassan is one of at least 40 prisoners believed to be on death row in Pakistan for the crime of blasphemy, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“USCIRF welcomes the #Pakistan Supreme Court’s acquittal of Wajeehul Hassan after almost 20 years on death row on false #blasphemy charges,” reads a tweet from USCIRF. The agency said it’s urging the Pakistani government to “free others imprisoned under unjust blasphemy laws and work to repeal them.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith