Pakistani court sentences 86 Islamists to 55-year prison over blasphemy protests

Islamabad: A Pakistani court has sentenced brother and nephew of a radical Islamist party chief along with 84 others to 55-year prison terms each for taking part in protests in 2018 over the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman in a controversial blasphemy case, according to a media report.

The anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Rawalpindi was hearing a case against the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) workers who held violent protests and clashed with the police over the arrest of party chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi in 2018, Dawn news reported.

Those convicted include TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi's brother Ameer Hussain Rizvi and nephew Mohammad Ali, the report said.

The court handed 86 workers and supporters of the TLP with a prison sentence of 55 years each in a case pertaining to rioting and resisting against the police, the report said.

Additionally, the court on Thursday ordered the convicts to collectively submit Rs 12,925,000 and directed authorities to seize their moveable and immoveable assets.

After the verdict was announced late on Thursday night, the convicts were escorted to Attock jail in three vehicles under tight security.

In November 2018, over 2,000 people, including the chief of a radical Islamist party, were booked under terrorism and other charges of rioting, attempting murder and hurling threats in different parts of Punjab province during the three-day protests following the acquittal of Christian woman Bibi.

Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of four, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.

In the landmark judgement, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar overturned the conviction of Bibi facing execution for blasphemy, sparking protests led by the TLP and other groups across Pakistan.

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