A Pakistan sessions court in Rawalpindi Wednesday sentenced a Muslim woman to death for committing blasphemy by insulting Prophet Muhammad over WhatsApp messages.
Aneeqa Atteeq was accused of sending blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad and making remarks about holy personages on WhatsApp while also using her Facebook account to post blasphemous materials to others.
The sharing of such “insulting images” of Prophet Muhammad triggers a mandatory death sentence under the country’s strict blasphemy laws, Sections 295-A, 295-C, and 298 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Section 11 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA). The sessions court awarded Atteeq a death sentence under Section 295-C for blasphemy, as well as 10 years under Section 295-A for insulting religious beliefs.
Atteeq, a practicing Muslim, denied all charges. She argued that the individual she was messaging on WhatsApp deliberately drew her into a religious discussion so he could collect evidence in revenge after she refused to be more than friendly with him. During an evidentiary statement, Atteeq stated: “I feel that he intentionally dragged into this topic for revenge, that’s why he got registered. . . a case against me and during [WhatsApp] chat he collected everything that went against me.”
In 2015, the International Commission of Jurists found that blasphemy trials in Pakistan were “fundamentally unfair.” The Commission stated that intimidation and harassment of judges were common practice, causing demonstrable bias and prejudice against defendants by judges. The Commission also said that investigations and prosecutions often did not meet the due diligence requirements.
Atteeq’s death sentenced must be confirmed by the Lahore High Court before it will be imposed. She also has the right to appeal the case to the Lahore High Court.