Police officers in Muslim-majority Pakistan have accused a Christian teenager of committing blasphemy, saying he used derogatory comments against Islam’s Muhammad.
“Umair Ahmed, a police officer in the town of Kharian in eastern Punjab province, said Saturday that the teenager, 16, was booked a day earlier and relocated for his safety,” reports the Associated Press (AP). “Ahmed said the youth was working at a local hospital.”
The strict blasphemy laws in Pakistan are primarily used to target Christians across the country, where dozens of people are detained on blasphemy charges every year.
Pakistani law enforcement officials have arrested Christian children as young as eight years old on allegations of insulting Islam or Mohammed, a crime that is punishable by death in Pakistan.
While the Pakistani government has not carried out a blasphemy-related death sentence, numerous Islamic extremists in the country have taken their version of justice into their hands.
“Earlier this year, a university student was lynched in northwestern Pakistan for alleged blasphemy. The charges were later found to be baseless,” notes AP.
In June, a Pakistani court sentenced a man to death for committing blasphemy on Facebook.
The case marked the first blasphemy-linked death sentence affiliated with social media, reported the Guardian, noting:
A court in Bahawalpur handed out the verdict, the harshest yet for such a crime, after finding Taimoor Raza, 30, guilty of insulting the prophet Muhammad.
Raza was arrested last year after a debate about Islam on Facebook with a man who turned out to be a counter-terrorism agent. He was one among 15 people arrested by the counter-terrorism department last year, accused of blasphemy, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
“In Pakistan, law courts are known for their manipulation of laws which are used as a tool [to] discriminate [against] minorities,” according to the Pakistan Christian Post.
Blasphemy has drawn many protesters to the streets in Pakistan, both in support and against the law.
This year, thousands of extremists rallied in support of killing a governor who wanted to change the country’s strict blasphemy laws.
“The casual manner in which death sentences are handed in blasphemy cases coupled with the lack of orientation of Pakistani courts with technology makes this a very dangerous situation,” proclaimed Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch in Pakistan.
“Such sentences will embolden those who want to wrongly frame people,” he added, expressing concern that an anti-terrorism court handed down the sentence.