10/05/2006, 00.00
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Pakistan: three members of Ahmadi sect arrested

by Qaiser Felix

The Alfazal daily, published by a Muslim sect held to be heretical, has been accused of "inciting hatred". The police arrested without charge three people who had nothing to do with the paper. One of them has serious medical problems.

Rabwah (AsiaNews) – The Ahmadi community yesterday issued a document denouncing latest cases of persecution against them. The Ahmadis claim to be Muslims but they do not recognise Muhammad as the last prophet, so they are subjected to severe violence and ostracism by integralists in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

On September 9, 2006, the police of Nagar, Jhang district, raided the office of the daily Alfazal – published by the Ahmadi community – and searched for the editor, the publisher and the printer. Not finding them, the officials arrested Qasim Ahmad and Abdus Sattar who have nothing to do with the newspaper. The police also arrested Sultan Ahmad Dogar from his residence. The accused men were charged with violating several articles of the Criminal Code: 295B, better known as the Blasphemy Law, which stipulates life imprisonment for those who desecrate the Koran; 298C that calls for imprisonment for any Ahmadi who "directly or indirectly, poses himself as Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims"; 16MPO, related to protecting public order, and the anti-terrorism law 9ATA. The report filed at the police station on 9 September mentions Agha Saifullah, Sultan Ahmad Dogar and "others". According to the charge, the Alfazal promotes hatred and injures the feelings of Muslims. A source from within the Ahmadi community described the accusation as "false and pure fabrication", a claim borne out by the fact that no incriminating articles have been quoted.

There are concerns about the health of Dogar, one of the detainees: the 60-year-old man is diabetic and needs insulin injections twice a day. He said he does not know the charges against him. Two days after his arrest, he was taken before the anti-terrorism court at Faisalabad but the judge postponed the sitting. On September 18, the judge rejected Dogar's plea for bail, and set the date of September 25 for the commencement of the trial. But on that day, the judge postponed the hearing to October 4. Meanwhile, Dogar's health is deteriorating rapidly and he is close to a breakdown. If declared guilty, he could be imprisoned for seven years.

The Ahmadis claim the accusations are false, describing what happened as a serious violation of "press freedom". In their statement, they have called on the government to put an end to the matter before it causes more serious damage to its own credibility and the health of an innocent detainee.

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