Gavel (illustration)
Gavel (illustration)iStock

A judge in Pakistan's anti-terrorism court heard no hard evidence, yet sentenced a Christian school principal to death under the charges of blasphemy.

It happened ten days ago. The death sentence was handed down despite the fact that the judge was not permitted to hear the recording of the alleged blasphemy – for that itself would have been the same capital offense of blasphemy.

The death-row defendant, as reported by the Clarion Project, is Anjum Naz Sindhu, 65, principal of a private school named Locus Science that educated 20,000 Christian and Muslim students over the past 20 years.

The story began when Sindhu fired a teacher named Javed Naz for allegedly leaking exam papers. The fired teacher then claimed to have a recording on his cell phone of a school program in which Sindhu blasphemed the Islamic prophet Mohammed. Blasphemy is a capital offense in Pakistan.

Naz and a friend then blackmailed Sindhu, demanding 20,000 rupees ($191, a quarter of an average monthly salary) to keep quiet about the tape. The panicky school principal paid the sum, but when Naz then demanded another 50,000 rupees, Sindhu went to the police.

However, the Muslim policeman who received the complaint was offended by the apparent blasphemy, and filed a complaint himself against Sindhu – and against the blackmailers for keeping the “blasphemous” recording in their cell phones.

The court then tried the case, but was careful not to listen to the tape – for that in itself would have been blasphemy. Sindhu's lawyer requested that the tape be sent to a forensic lab to verify that the blackmailers neither fabricated it nor added words of their own. Due to the lack of sophisticated audio equipment in Pakistan, a conclusive determination was unable to be made.

Given the weight of the "evidence," the court sentenced all three to death.

An appeal is planned.

Clarion reports that since 1985, when the blasphemy laws were introduced in Pakistan, several dozen people have been sentenced to death on these charges. Others have been killed extra-judicially by raging mobs.

In the previous Pakistan People’s Party Government, a senior female parliamentarian, Sherry Rahman, tried to propose an amendment to the blasphemy laws – leading her to face blasphemy charges herself. To save her from a mob murder, the president of Pakistan appointed her ambassador to the U.S.