Christian couple beaten to death in Pakistan for 'blasphemy'

Authorities in Pakistan say a Christian couple has been beaten to death for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Koran. Their bodies were subsequently burned in a brick kiln.

Local police officer Mohammed Pervez said Tuesday's attack took place in the town of Kot Radha Kishan in the eastern Punjab province, some 60 kilometers southwest of Lahore. He said that authorities were trying to arrest those involved.

Asia | 30.10.2014

The only information given about the two victims was that they were married and named Shama and Shehzad.

"A mob attacked a Christian couple after accusing them of desecration of the holy Koran and later burnt their bodies at a brick kiln where they worked," local police official Bin Yameen told the AFP news agency.

"Yesterday [Monday] an incident of desecration of the holy Koran took place in the area and today the mob first beat the couple and later set their bodies on fire at a brick kiln," he added.

The province's top elected official Shahbaz Sharif has ordered an investigation into the incident.

The case has received a sobering amount of attention on social media platform Twitter:

with some Pakistanis calling for an end to the laws:

Blasphemy - which includes insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad - is punishable by death in Pakistan. The controversial blasphemy laws in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population is Muslim, were introduced by the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Human rights organizations in Pakistan say the laws are often used to settle personal scores and discriminate against religious minorities. Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis are often victimized as a result.

In one case, a young girl between the ages of 10 to 14 years with Down syndrome, was accused in August of 2012 of burning pages upon which verses of the Koran were inscribed. Rimsha Masih was taken into police custody and only released months later, when charges were dropped. The case caused an uproar in her home town and beyond and sparked riots and violence against Christians in the region. In 2013, she and her family relocated to Canada.

One of Pakistan's most high profile cases is that of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was found guilty of committing blasphemy while working in the fields in 2009 and was sentenced to death. On October 16 this year, her death sentence was upheld by the Lahore High Court. Amnesty International called the verdict a "grave injustice."

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Even lawyers and politicians defending those accused of blasphemy become targets of mob attacks. Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who supported a call for Asia to be pardoned, was gunned down in 2011 by a police guard in Islamabad.

sb/es (AP, AFP)

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