ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR, Pakistan – The United States has urged Pakistan to take action on the murder of a US citizen in a crowded courtroom as it faces trial for blasphemy.
Tahir Ahmed Naseem was shot several times at close range when he appeared in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Wednesday.
“We urge Pakistan to take immediate action and pursue reforms that will prevent such a shameful tragedy from happening again,” the US State Department said in a tweet.
As Naseem̵7;s escape began in front of the judge, a young man in the room pulled out a gun and shot him in the head, officials and witnesses said. The young man was arrested on the spot.
On Thursday, supporters of a hardline Islamist group staged a protest in Peshawar demanding the release of the suspected gunmen, saying he had defended his religion.
The aftermath of the murder, captured on video and shared on social media, showed Naseem collapsing in a chair near the judge’s bench after other handcuffed inmates, some in bloody clothes, were taken from the room.
“The young man who shot him had no remorse and said he saw the Prophet Muhammad in a dream the night before,” Latif Afridi, who heads the Peshawar High Court Bar Association, told Reuters.
Afridi asked how the man managed to bring the gun to court considering that all visitors are fully controlled at three different points.
“It is likely that someone who could go unchecked, perhaps a police officer or a lawyer, handed him the gun after he entered,” he said.
According to the indictment against Naseem, seen by Reuters, the American was in contact with a student at an Islamic school in Pakistan on Facebook and told him he was a messenger sent by God.
Naseem later met the student in Peshawar, after which police arrested him and charged him with a number of crimes, including insulting the Prophet Muhammad, which could lead to the death penalty in Pakistan.