Three Chris­tians ar­rested in Gu­jrat over 'blas­phe­mous' poster

The Pak Banker - - NATIONAL -

Po­lice have ar­rested three Chris­tian men un­der ter­ror­ism laws for us­ing the word "prophet" to de­scribe a dead pas­tor on a poster, of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

The men were ar­rested in the town of Gu­jrat af­ter po­lice spot­ted posters mark­ing the 20th an­niver­sary of the death of priest Fazal Masih that re­ferred to him us­ing the Urdu word for prophet.

In Pak­istan, the word is used only for Is­lamic prophets and any­one claim­ing to be one is li­able to be charged un­der blas­phemy laws, which can carry the death penalty. "We have ar­rested three men, in­clud­ing the son of the priest, be­cause they used the word prophet for the late Fazal Masih," lo­cal po­lice sta­tion chief Shahid Tan­veer told AFP.

He said of­fi­cers had sum­moned lo­cal Mus­lim cler­ics and el­ders of the Chris­tian com­mu­nity to the po­lice sta­tion to con­sult them on the mat­ter.

The Chris­tians or­gan­is­ing the event apol­o­gised and asked for­give­ness, say­ing they had used the word to celebrate Masih's ser­vices to re­li­gion, but the Mus­lim cler­ics re­fused to ac­cept the apol­ogy, he added.

Tan­veer said that a case un­der an­titer­ror­ism law had been reg­is­tered against the or­gan­iser and three men had been ar­rested while 11 oth­ers were at large. He did not ex­plain why ter­ror­ism charges were brought, though the leg­is­la­tion is of­ten used in sen­si­tive and high pro­file cases as it gives ac­cess to a fast-track trial process.

Chris­tians, who make up around two per­cent of Pak­istan's mostly Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion of 180 mil­lion, have been in­creas­ingly tar­geted in re­cent years, of­ten over al­le­ga­tions of pro­fan­ity re­gard­ing the Qu­ran or the Prophet (PBUH). Pak­istan's Supreme Court agreed last month to hear an ap­peal by a Chris­tian woman against her death sen­tence for blas­phemy, lawyers said, in a case that has drawn crit­i­cism from rights cam­paign­ers.

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