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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 November, 2004, 16:29 GMT
Pakistani gets life for blasphemy
A mosque in Pakistan decorated for the Islamic month of Ramadan.
The incident was alleged to have taken place in a mosque
A Pakistani court has sentenced a man to life imprisonment under the country's controversial blasphemy laws.

Iqbal Ahmad, a member of the Ahmediya community, was found guilty of being disrespectful to the Prophet Muhammad in a mosque near Faisalabad.

Mr Ahmad says he is innocent and his lawyer says he will lodge an appeal.

Human rights groups have called the blasphemy laws draconian and say the burden of proof is too easy for the prosecution.

The laws cover offences against Islam, the Prophet and the Koran.

'Retaliation'

The incident is said to have happened in March this year.

The Ahmediya community, to which Mr Ahmad belongs, professes allegiance to Islam but was declared to be beyond the faith by a constitutional amendment 30 years ago.

A spokesman for the community, Malik Khalid Masood, told the BBC that Mr Ahmad's conviction was "an act of retaliation by his own family" who opposed his recent conversion to the Ahmedi sect.

In October, a Pakistani man was sentenced to life imprisonment for burning a copy of the Koran under the same laws.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has in the past called for changes in procedures so investigators can test the validity of blasphemy accusations before cases reach the courts.

Analysts say judges are often too scared of the reaction from powerful local Islamic leaders to throw out cases.

No-one has been hanged for blasphemy in Pakistan, largely because higher courts often overturn blasphemy convictions.




SEE ALSO:
Life sentence for burning Koran
18 Oct 04 |  South Asia
Death penalty in blasphemy case
12 Nov 03 |  South Asia
Country profile: Pakistan
14 Aug 04 |  Country profiles


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