A Pakistani Muslim who was on trial for blasphemy has been shot dead in a courtroom in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
It was not immediately clear how the young assailant, identified as Khalid Khan, managed to get into the court on July 29 amid tight security. The attacker was subsequently arrested.
The suspect told police the prophet Muhammad had ordered him to kill the man standing trial, Tahir 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 convicted of insulting God, Islam, or other religious figures.
Crowds and individuals in Pakistan often take the law into their own hands.
While authorities have yet to carry out a death sentence for blasphemy, even the mere accusation can cause riots. Domestic and international human rights groups say blasphemy allegations have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.
A Punjab governor was killed by his own guard in 2011 after he defended a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy.
Bibi was acquitted after spending eight years on death row in a case that drew international attention. Faced with death threats from Islamic radicals upon her release, she flew to Canada to join her daughters last year.
In December, a Muslim professor in Pakistan was also sentenced to death after being convicted of blasphemy.
A court in Multan found Junaid Hafeez, who had been held for six years awaiting trial, guilty of spreading anti-Islamic ideas.
Hafeez’s lawyer said his client was wrongly convicted and he would appeal the verdict.