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US demands prosecution over citizen killed in Pakistan court

Security personnel stand guard outside a court in Peshawar, Pakistan after a man accused of blasphemy was gunned down as he started his trial on July 29, 2020 (AFP Photo/-)
Security personnel stand guard outside a court in Peshawar, Pakistan after a man accused of blasphemy was gunned down as he started his trial on July 29, 2020 (AFP Photo/-)

(AFP)

The United States on Thursday demanded action over the killing of a US citizen inside a Pakistani court as he faced blasphemy charges, saying it had urged Islamabad to protect him.

The State Department said it was “shocked, saddened, and outraged” by the killing of Tahir Ahmad Nasim, a member of the minority Ahmadiyya community who it said was a US citizen who had been lured to Pakistan from his home in Illinois.

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Nasim was arrested in 2018 on allegations of blasphemy, a highly inflammatory charge in the conservative Muslim nation that has frequently triggered vigilante violence.

He was being escorted by police Wednesday to start his trial in the northern city of Peshawar when a man opened fire with a pistol, killing him on the spot, according to officials.

“The US government has been providing consular assistance to Mr. Naseem and his family since his detention in 2018 and has called the attention of senior Pakistani officials to his case to prevent the type of shameful tragedy that eventually occurred,” State Department spokesman Cale Brown said.

“We urge Pakistan to immediately reform its often abused blasphemy laws and its court system, which  allow such abuses to occur, and to ensure that the suspect is prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he said.

The Ahmadiyya have long faced violence in Pakistan, which forbids community members from self-identifying as Muslims.

The sect, which is rooted in the subcontinent and shuns violence, is considered heretical by many orthodox Muslims for challenging the Islamic belief that Mohammed was God’s final messenger.

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