US citizen shot dead in Pakistan courtroom during blasphemy trial

United States citizen, Tahir Ahmed Naseem, on trial for blasphemy in Pakistan has been shot dead while appearing in court on Wednesday.

The latest act of violence happened in the northwestern city of Peshawar, after a member of the public walked into the courtroom and opened fire in front of the judge, according to officials. His attacker was arrested at the scene.

Naseem was on trial on charges of blasphemy after allegedly claiming to be a prophet, a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment under the Pakistan penal code.

In a statement, the US State Department said officials were “shocked, saddened, and outraged” by Naseem’s death.

The statement said that Naseem had been “lured to Pakistan from his home in Illinois by individuals who then used Pakistan’s blasphemy laws to entrap him.” It didn’t offer any further detail. Naseem had been receiving consular assistance since his arrest in 2018.

According to a spokesperson for Peshawar police, the alleged killer told Naseem that he was an “enemy of religion” and deserved to be killed before opening fire.

Police are investigating how the suspect was able to enter the court room with a loaded weapon. Security guards are typically stationed outside court buildings and police officers guard individual court rooms.

Guns are difficult to obtain in Pakistan — civilians cannot purchase a weapon or carry one without a valid license. Members of the public are also typically not allowed into local court rooms, such as the one where Naseem was shot.