A young Pakistani Muslim walked into a courtroom in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Wednesday and shot and killed an Ahmadi man who was on trial for blasphemy.
Tahir Ahmed Naseem, an American citizen had been in prison since his arrest in 2018, allegedly after claiming he was a prophet. He was a follower of the Ahmadiyya sect, which is persecuted in Pakistan where they have officially been declared non-Muslims.
According to a lawyer, who was present in the courtroom said the incident happened after the accused was brought to court from Peshawar Central Jail.
Video shared on social media of the grisly scene shows Naseem’s body slumped over the court’s seats.
A spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya community suggested that Naseem had been mentally ill and had uploaded videos on social media claiming to be a messiah.
The US State Department condemned the incident and demanded “immediate action” by the Pakistan government.
“We extend our condolences to the family of Tahir Naseem, the American citizen who was killed today inside a courtroom in Pakistan. We urge Pakistan to take immediate action and pursue reforms that will prevent such a shameful tragedy from happening again,” it said in a statement that was posted on microblogging site Twitter.
Johnnie Moore, Commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) also condemned the incident saying:
“USCIRF is horrified by the violence that results from blasphemy cases. We urge Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy law, which violates religious freedom & exacerbates interreligious tensions.”
The Ahmadis are a persecuted minority in Pakistan and have been victims of the country’s draconian laws. There are about half a million Ahmadis in Pakistan, according to a study by Human Rights Watch.