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

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

"On the night of August 12, police received a complaint that a Christian boy has been found burning pages of the Holy Quran outside a shrine," Asghar Ali told AFP.

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 conservative Muslim country, where even unproven allegations can trigger mob lynchings and violence. A 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.

 

 

AFP