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September 3, 2012 10:11 am

Pakistani Imam Arrested in Blasphemy Case

avatar by Lakkana Nanayakkara

Mosque in Jhelum Cantonment Pakistan built in early 50s. Photo: Khalid Mahmood.

Pakistani police have arrested an imam, Khalid Chishti, for planting evidence used against a Christian girl accused of blasphemy. He will face blasphemy charges himself after witnesses said he tore pages from a Quran and stashed them in the girl’s bag. He is alleged to have said, “You know this is the only way to expel the Christians from this area.”

The 14-year-old girl, Rimsha Masih, was arrested two weeks ago near Islamabad, after a mob accused her of burning pages of the Quran. They found her with two shopping bags containing paper to be used as fuel for cooking. The bags were then given to Chishti, the local cleric, for safekeeping as evidence.

Under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, the accused can receive a death sentence. Human rights groups claim the vague terminology of the blasphemy laws is used to discriminate against religious minorities and settle personal vendettas. Mobs have killed defendants, even after they have been cleared of blasphemy charges by the courts. Hundreds of Christians have already fled the neighborhood since Masih’s arrest, and her parents have been taken into protective custody. Last year, two prominent politicians were assassinated by Islamic extremists after criticizing the controversial legislation.

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