PESHAWAR, July 8: The additional district and sessions judge, Sardar Irshad, on Tuesday convicted a sub-editor of The Frontier Post, Munawar Mohsin, in a blasphemy case and sentenced him to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs50,000.

The judge held Munawar Mohsin responsible for publication of a blasphemous letter in the said newspaper on Jan 29, 2001, which had resulted in violent protest demonstrations across the country especially in the NWFP.

The two other defendants, the then news editor of the paper, Aftab Ahmad, and in charge of computers, Wajeehul Hassan, were acquitted by the court as the prosecution could not prove its case against them.

The court declared the editor of newspaper, Mahmood Shah Afridi, a proclaimed offender and issued his perpetual arrest warrants. The presiding officer observed that prima facie a case existed against the absconding accused, Mahmood Afridi.

The case was registered by director information department, Mehdi Hussain, at West Cant police station under section 295 (A), (B) and (C) and 505 of Pakistan Penal Code. The blasphemous letter was purportedly written by a person named Ben DZec and it appeared in the “Your Views” column of the newspaper. In the letter derogatory remarks were used against Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

The very next day a violent mob set on fire the printing press of the newspaper and damaged other public properties including a cinema house. The publication of newspaper remained suspended for few months after the occurrence.

The defendant was a drug addict and had escaped from the Peshawar Mental Hospital a few days before the publication of the said letter. Soon after the occurrence the NWFP government had ordered a judicial inquiry which was conducted by Justice Qaim Jan Khan of the high court.

In the said inquiry the tribunal had examined the concerned doctor, Muhammad Tariq of the mental hospital who informed the tribunal that Munawar had escaped from the hospital and they had informed the management of the newspaper about that. The tribunal had observed that the mental condition of Munawar Mohsin was not sound and an addict and mentally sick person was ordered to sit on an important desk/page like the editorial page which included “Yours Views” section.

The trial court has examined 11 prosecution witnesses. The court mostly relied on the confessional statement of Munawar Mohsin. The trial judge did not accept the view that the defendant was mentally ill and a drug addict as the investigation officer  had  not  touched that point  during  the course  of investigation. The court observed that during the trial the accused was not found to be an abnormal and the evidence was completely silent about his abnormality of mind.

The court stated that the accused Munawar was responsible for selection of the letter in question and subsequently he sent the same for the purpose of printing. The trial judge held that the evidence on record would reflect that the accused Munawar has intentionally and wilfully committed an offence under section 295-C of the PPC.

The convict, Munawar Mohsin, has been in detention since Jan 29, 2001.

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