Newsman accused of blasphemy acquitted
Pakistani journalist Munawar Mohsin Ali who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for blasphemy was acquitted on November 11, by the Peshawar High Court in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.
A two-member bench accepted the criminal appeal of Munawar Mohsin Ali, sub-editor of The Frontier Post daily, and set aside the conviction. Mr Ali was convicted by an additional district and sessions judge on July 8 last year and was sentenced to life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50, 000. The trial court had held Mr Ali responsible for publication of a blasphemous letter in the paper in its issue of Jan 29, 2001. Mr Mohsin has been in detention since the publication of the letter. The case was registered by the then director information department, Mehdi Hussain, at West Cant police station under sections 295 (A), (B) and (C) and 505 of Pakistan Penal Code.
The high court’s bench observed that the prosecution had failed to prove that the appellant had intentionally published the letter. The court said that the evidence on record proved that the appellant was not aware of the contents of the blasphemous letter. The court observed that in his statement, Mr Ali had clearly stated that he was a Muslim and he could not even think of committing such a crime.
The blasphemous letter was purportedly written by a person named Ben DZec and it appeared in the “Your Views” column of the newspaper. After the publication of the letter, occurrence violent mobs set on fire the office of the newspaper and other public property including a cinema house.
The appellant’s counsel contended that the element of criminal intention should be seen in such offences. He referred to sections 295 (A), 295 (B) and 295 (C) of the Pakistan Penal Code, arguing that in the first two sections the words ‘deliberate’, ‘malicious intentions’ and ‘wilfully’ were mentioned. He added that unless the offence was committed with criminal intention a person could not be held responsible for it.