02/13/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Presumed guilty five Ahmadis arrested in Punjab for blasphemy

by Qaiser Felix
Asma Jahangir, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, slams the charges, urging the government to prevent abuses in the application of the law. The Ahmadis in question are accused of defacing the walls of a bathroom in a mosque with offensive graffiti. For the Commission an extremist organisation and a relative of a local politician put pressure on police to incriminate the group.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Five Ahmadi in Punjab’s Layyah district have been arrested on charges of blasphemy. No evidence has been presented, nor has any witness come forth. They were just detain on a “presumption of guilt,” this according to Asma Jahangir, chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and United Nations Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion. For this reason she has called on the government to take prompt measures to prevent abuses of the law.

Last week the HRCP sent a fact-finding team to Punjab to get more information about the case. After a preliminary examination of the evidence they discovered that the blasphemy accusation was levelled at the five Ahmadis without any prior investigation being undertaken by police.

The HRCP team demanded a prompt and transparent inquiry into the matter to ensure that innocent people are not unjustly accused. It also called on the government to ensure the protection of the local Ahmadiyya community

For Islamic fundamentalists the Ahmadis are a heretical sect that cannot claim to be Muslim because they do not recognise Muhammad as the final prophet. Because of this they have suffered persecution in Pakistan but also in Bangladesh and Indonesia.

This particular incident began when five Ahmadi students, who had been duly authorised to pray in the local mosque, were told not to come back to the holy place.

With such a threat hanging over their heads, the five men were accused ten days later of scribbling offensive graffiti on the walls of the mosque’s bathroom.

According to the official complaint filed against them, since they were the only non-Muslims in the mosque, “only they could be responsible for the offence.”

For the HRCP the facts are quite different. It squarely lays the blame on elements belonging to a banned extremist organisation and on a relative of a local Pakistani politician who put pressure on police to get them to incriminate the Ahmadis on the basis of “presumption of guilt.”

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