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The American national was shot in the courtroom in Pakistan during the blasphemy trial

Tahir Ahmed Naseem, 47, died Wednesday in the northwestern city of Peshawar after a member of the public entered the courtroom and opened fire on the judge, according to officials. His attacker was arrested at the scene.

Naseem was tried for blasphemy after being accused of being a prophet, a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment under the Pakistan Penal Code.

A statement from the US State Department said officials were “shocked, saddened and outraged” by Naseem’s death. The statement said Nasiem was “lured to Pakistan from his home in Illinois by people who then used Pakistani blasphemy laws to lure him.” He did not offer more details. Naseem received consular assistance from his arrest in 201


“We extend our condolences to the family of Tahir Naseem, the American citizen who was killed today in a courtroom in Pakistan,” a separate statement issued online Thursday by the South Asian Central Asia Bureau said. “We call on Pakistan to take immediate action and pursue reforms that will prevent a recurrence of such a shameful tragedy.”

According to a Peshawar police spokesman, the alleged killer told Naseem that he was an “enemy of religion” and deserved to be killed before he opened fire.

Police are investigating how the suspect managed to enter the courtroom with a loaded weapon. The guards are usually located outside the court buildings, and the police guard separate courtrooms.

Weapons are difficult to obtain in Pakistan – civilians cannot buy or carry weapons without a valid license. Members of the community are usually not allowed in local courtrooms, such as the one where Naseem was shot.

Blasphemy linked violence

The case has reiterated tensions over the country’s strict blasphemy laws, which have linked to a number of acts of violence, including at least one fatal shooting in recent years.

International human rights groups have widely condemned the law, which critics say is used disproportionately against minority religious groups and targeting journalists who criticize the Pakistani religious institution.

According to a country-specific report by the non-profit group Human Rights Watch last year, at least 17 people died on charges of blasphemy. Most are members of religious minorities.
However, violence against those who criticize the blasphemy law has had a “chilling effect” on legislative reform efforts, HRW said.

There are also fears that hardline Islamist groups may hail Naseim’s attacker as a hero, as they have done in the past to murderers of people accused of blasphemy.

In 2010, the mother of Christian Asia Bibi was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. The following year, Punjab Governor Salman Tassier was shot dead by his own bodyguard for expressing support for Bibi and condemning the country’s blasphemous laws.
Pakistan's Christian Asia Bibi remains free as Supreme Court says it will not review her case

His killer, Mumtaz Kadri, immediately turned himself in to police and was later executed. But for many staunch Islamists, Kadri is a martyr, and his grave has become a sanctuary for those who support Asia Bibi’s death sentence.

After the Supreme Court acquitted Bibi in 2018, Maulana Sami ul Haq, a Pakistani political and religious leader known as the “father of the Taliban,” was killed for calling for his decision to be overturned.

At this time Rabia Mehmud, a former Amnesty International researcher, said Bibi’s case had become so divisive because the Pakistani government had failed to take measures to curb the “hate and violence campaign sparked by some groups in the country”.

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