05/10/2007, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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84-year-old Christian accused of blasphemy to force him to sell land

by Qaiser Felix
Walter Fazal Khan, an 84-year-old man from Lahore, is in jail, accused of burning pages of the Quran. His family says this is a plot orchestrated by some businessmen who did not take kindly to the man’s refusal to sell them his land at their price.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Victim of a plot to seize his land, an 84-year-old Christian was accused of blasphemy and arrested in Lahore yesterday. The man, Walter Fazal Khan, is in prison although the police have not even started their investigations yet.

Police officers accepted the charge submitted by Raja Riaz, Kahn’s driver, who yesterday declared that he saw his master burning pages of the Quran. The accusation falls within the parameters of Article 295C of the Pakistani Criminal Code – the notorious “blasphemy law” – which hands down prison sentences or the death penalty to those who desecrate the Prophet or the sacred texts of Islam.

But the man’s family and civil society groups say he is the victim of a “conspiracy” by some Muslim businessmen who want to take control of Khan’s land. The “blasphemer” recently sold around 100 sq meters of land to these businessmen for 2.5 million rupees. He later put up all his land for sale for 12.4 million rupees. The previous buyers approached Khan offering 8 million rupees but Khan refused. This is why, according to Khan’s relatives, the businessmen got in touch with the driver and together they planned the blasphemy frame-up. Local imams grabbed the opportunity and from their mosques urged people to go outside the house of the “blasphemer”, where a crowd gathered and yelled out threats.

Aniqa, a Catholic lawyer from the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance in Lahore, told AsiaNews: “This is a clear attempt of land grabbing by men without scruples.” Shahbaz Bhatti, chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) added: “Why should an old Christian man keep the Quran at home and then burn it in front of his Muslim driver?” He said this was the “umpteenth example of the wrong use of a law that should be completely removed from our criminal code because it is always used to strike innocent minorities.” Khan’s is the fifth case of blasphemy registered against Christians in 2007.

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