By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Concerns remained Thursday about the plight of a Pakistani woman after she was sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy against Islam despite concerns about her mental situation.
A court in Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city, ruled that Muslim school principal Salma Tanvir was guilty of blasphemy for allegedly claiming to be the next prophet after Prophet Muhammad.
Tanvir, who supervised a private school in Lahore's Nishtar Colony, was fined $29 in local currency. "It is proved beyond reasonable doubt that accused Salma Tanvir wrote and distributed the writings which are derogatory in respect of Holy Prophet Muhammad," ruled Additional District & Sessions, Judge Mansoor Ahmad Qureshi."
She failed to prove that her case falls under the exception [of prosecution] provided by section 84 of the [Pakistan Penal Code] PPC," for mentally unstable persons, the judge added in his 22-page verdict.
A trial observer reacted angrily, saying cynically she had doubts about the mental capabilities of the judge.
However, the court said it followed the advice by a medical board of the Punjab Institute of Mental Health, which concluded that "the suspect was fit to stand trial as she was not mentally deranged."
Several sources reported that Lahore police registered a blasphemy case against Tanvir in 2013 following a local cleric complaint.
She was accused of denying the finality of Prophet Muhammad and allegedly claimed herself to be "the Prophet of Islam."
Tanvir's defense lawyer Mian Muhammad Ramzan countered that the woman had an "unsound mind when the incident occurred."
Her lawyer added that Tanvir didn't write the pamphlets as tampering had been made in the photocopies of the alleged documents.
The prosecution claimed it had proven its case after 11 witnesses, including the complainant and police officials, testified against Tanvir. She can appeal her case at the Lahore High Court, an often lengthy process.
Pakistan has been under international pressure to overturn it led to controversial blasphemy legislation.
Rights activists say the laws contributed to an atmosphere of hatred in which numerous Christians and Muslims were prosecuted and even killed by angry mobs.
A notorious case of blasphemy grabbed headlines in 2010 when
a Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Noreen, popularly known as Asia Bibi, was convicted and sentenced to death for blasphemy.
The sentence was linked to her debate with fellow female workers in 2009, in which she defended her faith in Christ and allegedly insulted Prophet Muhammed.
In October 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted her, citing “insufficient evidence.” But Bibi was ordered to stay in heavily Islamic Pakistan pending a review of her case.
She was held under armed guard till May 7, 2019. The next day she arrived in Canada, where she has since received asylum.