Detained Since: December 2, 2015.
Charges: Printing, publishing, or disseminating any material to incite hatred, and insulting religion.
Sentence: A combined eight years in prison.
Biography: Before his arrest, Abdul Shakoor was the manager of an optician’s store and bookshop in the main bazaar of Rabwah in Punjab Province, Pakistan. He was born in 1937. Rabwah is the de facto headquarters of Paksitna's Ahmadiyya community.
On December 2, 2015, law enforcement raided Mr. Shakoor’s bookshop. He was arrested and accused of selling an Ahmadiyya commentary on the Qur’an, among other publications. Officials confiscated the Ahmadi publications during that raid and another on December 9. After his arrest, Mr. Shakoor was held in an unknown location and was not permitted to contact his family.
Mr. Shakoor’s trial was held in the Anti-Terrorism Court in Faisalabad, with the officers who raided the bookstore as the only witnesses. Ahmadiyya leaders contend that in order to support the officers’ claims, the prosecution entered a falsified letter into evidence which warned Mr. Shakoor against selling Ahmadi literature in his shop. However, none of the literature cited in the letter was banned until after his trial ended. Mr. Shakoor contended during the trial and maintains the position that he did not distribute any of the literature listed, although he admits to being in possession of some of them. However, possession of Ahmadiyya literature is not a crime in Pakistan.
On January 2, 2016, Mr. Shakoor was sentenced to five years in prison for violating article 11-W of the 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act which involves “printing, publishing, or disseminating any material to incite hatred.” He was also given a three-year sentence for violating article 298-C of the Pakistani Penal Code, which criminalizes insulting religion. Mr. Shakoor filed a writ petition for bail and appeal against the verdict with the Lahore High Court, but the case has been continually postponed. He remains in prison and is suffering a hernia and back pain.
Abdul Shakoor has been RELEASED.
Advocate: Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD)
Advocacy Partner: U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom's (USCIRF) 2018 Annual Report concluded that Pakistan has failed to protect its minorities. The report highlighted the case of the case of Abdul Shakoor, an 80-year-old Ahmadi bookseller imprisoned since 2015 on blasphemy charges. (USCIRF 2018 Annual Report)
In a statement released on February 26, 2019, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Johnnie Moore called on the government of Pakistan to immediately release Abdul Shakoor. (February 26, 2019, USCIRF)