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Christian Teen Imprisoned Over Blasphemy

by AFP

File Photo. Asif Hassan—AFP

Resident of central Punjab has confessed to his crime, claim police

A Christian teenager has been arrested and imprisoned for allegedly burning pages of the Quran, officials said on Sunday.

The incident occurred in Punjab province, with a local police official saying police had caught 18-year-old Asif Massih “red-handed.”

“On the night of Aug. 12, police received a complaint that a Christian boy has been found burning pages of the holy Quran outside a shrine,” said Asghar Ali.

The incident was confirmed by another local police official, Pervaiz Iqbal, who is investigating the case.

“When the police took the suspect into custody and brought him to a police check-post, a crowd of around 200 men gathered outside…demanding the culprit be handed over to them,” Iqbal said. “We then secretly moved the culprit to the police station in Wazirabad where he was interrogated and confessed to his crime.”

Massih was charged under section 295-B of Pakistan’s penal code, added Iqbal, referring to a part of the country’s Constitution that makes the death sentence mandatory for anyone who damages or desecrates the Quran. He will stand trial and faces the possibility of being put to death.

Blasphemy is a sensitive charge in the Muslim-majority country, where even unproven allegations can trigger mob lynchings and violence.

A Pakistani man was sentenced to death for committing blasphemy on Facebook in June. In May, a 10-year old boy was killed and five others were wounded when a mob attacked a police station in an attempt to lynch a Hindu man charged with blasphemy for allegedly posting an incendiary image on social media.

At least 65 people have been murdered by vigilantes over blasphemy allegations since 1990.

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