Rawalpindi: An anti-cybercrime court in Rawalpindi in Pakistan has sentenced a Muslim woman to death on charges of sending blasphemous material over WhatsApp.
The judge delivered the reserved verdict on Wednesday.
The court also sentenced her to three years for posing as Muslim and to 10 years for insulting religious belief, besides awarding seven years imprisonment for online hate speech.
The 26-year-old woman was arrested in May 2020 and charged with posting “blasphemous material” as her WhatsApp status, according to a summary issued by a sessions court. When a friend urged her to change it, she instead forwarded the material to him, it said.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Adnan Mushtaq convicted Aneeqa Ateeq, resident of Islamabad’s Sector G-10/4, under sections 295-A, 295-C and 298 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Section 11 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA).
The court awarded death sentence under Section 295-C [blasphemy] and imposed Rs50,000 fine on her. Under Section 295-A [insulting religious belief], she was sentenced to 10 years along with the fine of Rs50,000.
The criminal case was registered by the FIA Cyber Crime Wing in 2020 on May 13, on the complaint of Muhammad Hasnat Farooq, after which she was arrested.
According to the charge sheet, Ateeq met her accuser, a fellow Pakistani, online in 2019 through a mobile gaming app and the pair began corresponding over WhatsApp.
He accused her of sending blasphemous caricatures of the holy prophet, making remarks about “holy personages” on WhatsApp and using her Facebook account to transmit blasphemous material to other accounts.
In doing so, she “deliberately and intentionally defiles sacred righteous personalities and insulted the religious beliefs of Muslims”, according to the charge sheet.
Ateeq, who has stated that she is a practising Muslim, denied all the charges.
The woman, according to the verdict, told the court that other members of the PUBG group used to make fun of the complainant.
During the trial, Ateeq told the court that she believed the complainant intentionally dragged her into a religious discussion so he could collect evidence and take “revenge” after she refused to be friendly with him, media reports said.
Blasphemy charges are often made to settle scores.
In September last year a sessions court in Lahore had sentenced a Muslim woman to death on blasphemy charge under section 295C of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
The woman, an owner and principal of a private school, was accused of distributing photocopies of her writings wherein she denied the finality of prophethood and claimed herself as a prophet.
The most famous case relating to blasphemy has been of Christian woman Asia Bibi, who was convicted of verbally insulting Prophet Mohammed by a Sheikhapura court in 2010.
The decision was upheld by the Lahore High Court but she was eventually acquitted by Pakistan’s supreme court in 2018. She was subsequently flown out of the country. The legal ruling led to large and violent protests by thousands of followers of Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan.
Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer, who had called for Asia’s release and called for review of the blasphemy law, was killed by his gunman in 2011 for those ‘blasphemous’ views.
In December last year, a Sri Lankan factory manager working in Pakistan was beaten to death and set ablaze by a mob after being accused of blasphemy.
Up to 80 people are known to be jailed in Pakistan on blasphemy charges — half of whom face life in prison or the death penalty — according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.