An 82-year-old Muslim prisoner of conscience in Pakistan who was supported by Trump evangelical adviser Johnnie Moore has been freed after three years imprisonment for blasphemy.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Abdul Shakoor was released from prison Monday after a high court in Punjab reduced his eight-year sentence for the alleged crime of selling commentary on his Ahmadiyya religious beliefs.
As adherents to a minority sect of Islam that promotes peace and tolerance, Ahmadis face severe persecution in Pakistan, which is about 97 percent Sunni Muslim. Pakistan’s constitution even declares Ahmadis to be non-Muslims and the country’s penal code prevents Ahmadis from claiming that they are Muslims.
Shakoor, the Indian-born manager of a bookshop and optician store in the Punjab province, was arrested on Dec. 5, 2015, after officials from the Punjab police and Pakistan’s Elite Force raided Shakoor’s bookshop. He was taken along with the store’s assistant, Mazhar Abbas. He was accused of selling Ahmadiyya commentary on the Quran.
At Shakoor’s trial, officers who raided the bookstore were the only witnesses. Prosecutors alleged that a letter from the Ahmadiyya director of public affairs was sent to Shakoor days earlier telling him that selling Ahmadiyya literature had been banned.
According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Ahmadiyya leaders have said that the prosecution fabricated the letter to support their argument in Shakoor’s case. Ahmadiyya leaders even noted that the ban on literature in question in the case didn’t even go into effect until Jan. 20, 2016, after the trial had concluded.
Throughout, Shakoor maintained that he didn’t distribute Ahmaddiya literature but admitted to possessing the literature. However, possession of Ahmadiyya literature is not a crime in Pakistan.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith