11/03/2004, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Blasphemy law: death threats against teenage girl forces family to flee

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Justice and Peace Commission of Pakistan's Bishops' Conference said that a Christian family from Wah Cantt (near Islamabad) was forced to move to an undisclosed location in the country. Their daughter Safad received death threats for allegedly desecrating the Qu'ran. The Tasneem Dean family was told of "terrible consequences" on the part of Wah Cantt Muslims.

Last July, a Muslim woman accused 16-year-old Safad Tasneem Dean of throwing a copy of the Qu'ran into a trash bin. An enraged group of Muslims gathered with the intention of burning the girl's house. They tried to kill her but a group of local elders was able to save her by getting the police to arrest her.

After heated discussions between local Christians and Muslims it was decided that the girl's father would take her place in prison, but he, too, was released soon after.

Even though no evidence was presented concerning the alleged blasphemy, Safad's family was forced to move to an undisclosed location.

Adopted in 1986, Pakistan's Blasphemy law imposes life imprisonment on anyone insulting the Qu'ran and the death penalty on anyone defiling the name of Mohammed.

Minority and human rights activists have repeatedly called for the law's repeal. Very often it is used to settle matters between private individuals.

So far tens of Christians have died because of the law. Since 1986, more than 4,000 people have been accused of blasphemy. Currently, some 560 people have been charged and 30 are still waiting for a court decision. The accused have often had to move fearing for their lives and that of their families. (LF)

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