Arrests in Pakistan after Christian couple lynched by mob

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 05, 2014 6:49 AM

By Syed Raza Hassan

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Police in Pakistan arrested dozens of people on Wednesday after a mob beat a Christian couple to death and burned their bodies for allegedly desecrating a Koran.

Blasphemy is a serious offense in conservative Muslim Pakistan where those accused are sometimes lynched on the spot.

Local media reported the Christian couple were accused of burning a copy of the Koran and throwing it in a rubbish bin in the province of Punjab on Tuesday.

Police said their bodies were set on fire in a brick kiln.

"We have arrested 44 people, it was a local issue incited by the mullah of a local mosque," Jawad Qamar, a regional police chief, told Reuters.

"No particular sectarian group or religious outfit was behind the attack."

Blasphemy charges, even when they go to court, are punishable by death in Muslim-majority Pakistan. They are hard to fight because the law does not define clearly what is blasphemous. Presenting the evidence can sometimes itself be considered a fresh infringement.

Christians make up about four percent of Pakistan's population and tend to keep a low profile in a country where Sunni Muslim militants frequently bomb targets they see as heretical, including Christians, and Sufi and Shi'ite Muslims.

All of Pakistan's minorities feel that the state fails to protect them, and even tolerates violence against them.

Last month a British man with a history of mental health illness, sentenced to death for blasphemy earlier this year, was shot by a prison guard in his cell.

Also in October, a Pakistani court upheld the death penalty against a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who is also accused of blasphemy, in a case that drew global headlines after two prominent politicians who tried to help her were assassinated.

(Writing by Maria Golovnina)