ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani court freed an Islamic preacher who was sentenced to death four years ago on charges of blasphemy, a defense lawyer said Tuesday.
Chaudhry Mehmood Akhtar said that a judge in the city of Rawalpindi acquitted Mohammad Ishaq on Friday after finding him "completely innocent" of insulting Islam.
Ishaq was custodian at a shrine in Punjab province when he was arrested and sentenced to death in 2013 after a citizen accused him of claiming in conversation to actually be God.
"My client is a practicing Muslim and he was a victim of false charges. Now I am doing the paperwork to get him out of a jail," Akhtar told The Associated Press.
Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, anyone accused of insulting God, Islam or religious personalities can be sentenced to death. However the laws are also sometimes used to settle personal scores or grudges.
Human rights groups have called for amending Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, which are often misused against the country's minority Christian community. In 2015, a Muslim mob beat a Christian couple to death and burned their bodies for allegedly desecrating the Quran.