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US says man killed in Pakistan after blasphemy charge was US citizen, demands action

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo at Richard Nixon Presidential Library, in Yorba Linda, Calif., on July 23, 2020. (Ron Przysucha/U.S. State Department)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has demanded action over the killing of a U.S. citizen in a Pakistani court this week as he faced blasphemy charges.

The State Department said in a statement on July 30 that the man, Tahir Nasim, was a U.S. citizen and it had urged Islamabad to protect him. The statement said Nasim had been lured from his home in Illinois by individuals who then used Pakistan’s blasphemy laws to entrap him.

“We are shocked, saddened, and outraged that American citizen Tahir Naseem was killed yesterday inside a Pakistani courtroom,” the statement said, using an alternative spelling of his name.

Nasim was shot dead on July 29 in a courtroom in the northwestern city of Peshawar amid tight security.

The U.S. government had called the attention of senior Pakistani officials to his case since his detention in 2018 aiming to “prevent the type of shameful tragedy that eventually occurred,” the statement said.

The statement also urged Pakistan to immediately reform its blasphemy laws, saying they are often abused, and its court system, saying it has allowed such abuses to occur. It called for the suspect to be prosecuted “to the full extent of the law.”

It was not clear how the suspect, identified as Khalid Khan, managed to gain access to the courtroom.

He told police the Prophet Muhammad had ordered him to kill Nasim because he had belonged to the Ahmadi faith.

Ahmadis, a 4-million-strong minority group in Pakistan, have faced death, threats, intimidation, and a sustained hate campaign for decades.

Ahmadis insist they follow Islam. However, Pakistan declared the group non-Muslim in 1974 for regarding their sect’s founder, Ghulam Ahmad, as a prophet. Orthodox Islam holds there can be no prophets after Muhammad.

Nasim was arrested two years ago on blasphemy charges after claiming he was Islam’s prophet.

Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law carries an automatic death penalty for anyone found guilty of insulting God, Islam, or other religious figures.

While authorities have yet to carry out a death sentence for blasphemy, even the mere accusation can cause riots.