Christian activist’s life in danger after arrest on blasphemy charges
by Qaiser Felix
Hector Aleem was arrested at night at his home after he was accused of sending a blasphemous text message. Since then he has been allowed to see his family only once. Muslim clerics want the court to hand him over to them so that they can execute him. The blasphemy law under which he was arrested also penalises members of other minorities. Five members of the Ahmadi community were in fact arrested on the same charges; four of them minors.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The life of Hector Aleem, the Christian peace activist arrested on 22 January in the Pakistani capital on blasphemy charges, is in danger, this according to his 24-year-old daughter Mehvish who told AsiaNews that a mob of Muslim clerics went to court demanding he be handed over to them so that they can put him to death.

Aleem was first brought before Pakistan’s Anti Terrorism Court on 23 January. At this initial hearing the 55-year-old director of Peace Worldwide was remanded into custody for five days at the RA Bazaar Police Station.

“The situation is very tense”, Mehvish Aleem said. “Police didn’t even allow us to see our father when he was produced in the court on 27 January for fear of extremists. [. . .] I see every one is under pressure by Muslim clerics. That is why we are not getting justice.”

“During this sad event we could only meet our father once with the help of Joseph France”, she added. Mr France heads the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an organisation that has agreed to represent Mr Aleem in court.

Hector Aleem was arrested over night on 21-22 January. “Suddenly many people jumped in the house,” his wife said, “some were in police uniform; others were in plain clothes.”

After turning everything upside down and scaring the family half to death, agents sought “to take my 13-year-old son, David John,” Ms Aleem said.

Aleem’s accuser is a militant in an Islamic organisation, claiming that the director of Peace Worldwide sent him a blasphemous text message on his cellphone.

Such incidents are commonplace in Pakistan, involving Muslims as well.

In fact five members of the Ahmadi community, a Muslim minority considered heretical by other Muslims, were arrested today according to a news report.

They are accused of writing offensive words about Muhammad in the latrines of a mosque in the village of Chank, Punjab province. One of them is 45-year-old man and the others are one 16-year-old and three 14-year-old boys.

An Ahmadi community spokesman said that since blasphemy legislation was introduced in Pakistan in 1986, 266 members of his community were arrested (as of December 2008).