Pakistani Muslim who claimed he was a prophet is killed in court

Tahir Shamim Ahmad was shot while facing blasphemy charges in the northern city of Peshawar

epa07328844 Pakistani security officials stand guard outside the Supreme Court as the court hears an appeal against the acquittal for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was cleared of blasphemy by the supreme court last year, in Islamabad, Pakistan, 29 January 2019. The country's top court is studying the appeal against the acquittal. The petition was filed by cleric Qari Mohammed Salam, who had lodged the original blasphemy complaint in 2009. Bibi, a mother of five, was accused by two other women of allegedly making offensive comments against Prophet Muhammad, the most revered figure in Islam.  EPA/T. MUGHAL

A young Pakistani Muslim walked into a courtroom in the northern city of Peshawar on Wednesday and shot and killed a fellow Muslim who was on trial for blasphemy, a police officer said.

It was not clear how the assailant, identified as Khalid Khan, entered the court amid tight security. The attacker was arrested.

The man on trial, Tahir Shamim Ahmad, claimed he was Islam’s prophet and was arrested two years ago on blasphemy charges, according to Azmat Khan, the police officer. Ahmad died at the scene.

Blasphemy is a controversial issue in Pakistan, where people convicted of the crime can be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty. But people in Pakistan often take the law into their own hands.

While authorities have yet to carry out a death sentence for blasphemy, even the mere accusation can cause riots. Domestic and international human rights groups said blasphemy allegations have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.

A Punjab governor was killed by his guard in 2011 after he defended a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy. She was acquitted after spending eight years on death row in a case that drew international media attention. Faced with death threats from extremists upon her release, she flew to Canada to join her daughters last year.