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ISLAMABAD: A man accused of blasphemy won freedom on Friday after spending over nine years in jail.

The Supreme Court absolved the 58-year-old of the blasphemy charges for want of evidence.

Police arrested him on Sept 29, 2008 for allegedly desecrating pages of the Holy Quran in a mosque in the Sadiq Gunj area of Bahawalnagar and registered a case under Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

Suffering from hearing and speech impairments, Akhtar Mohammad had reported the incident to Imam Hafiz Mohammad Munir who informed the local panchayat, where the suspect was beaten up and later handed over to police.

The police filed a charge sheet against him before the Bahawalnagar district and sessions judge who sentenced the man to life imprisonment in 2009.

The Lahore High Court upheld the sentence in 2014. The Supreme Court took up the case the same year and provided the accused a state counsel as he could not afford a lawyer.

During the hearing on Friday, the defence counsel pointed out that the prosecution evidence produced against the accused was not in accordance with the Evidence Act. He argued that the star witness in the case was a person suffering from hearing and speech impairments and, therefore, could not even be termed a witness under the Evidence Act.

The counsel contended that investigation into the incident did not fulfil the mandatory requirements of the Criminal Procedure Code.

After hearing the arguments, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Dost Mohammad and Justice Qazi Faez Isa absolved the accused of the blasphemy charges with the observation that the person who falsely accused others of desecration of the Holy Quran and revered personalities in fact committed blasphemy.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2017