Pakistan mob burns man accused of desecrating Koran alive

HYDERABAD, Pakistan Sat Dec 22, 2012 5:33pm IST

HYDERABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) - A mob broke into a Pakistani police station and burnt a man accused of desecrating the Koran alive, police said Saturday, in the latest violence focusing attention on the country's blasphemy laws.

The man was a traveller and had spent Thursday night at the mosque, said Maulvi Memon, the imam in the southern village of Seeta in Sindh province. The charred remains of the Koran were found the next morning.

"He was alone in the mosque during the night," Memon said. "There was no one else there to do this terrible thing."

Villagers beat the man then handed him over to police. A few hours later, a crowd of around 200 stormed the police station, dragged the man out and set him on fire, said Usman Ghani, the senior superintendent of police in Dadu district.

Ghani said around 30 people had been arrested for the murder and seven police detained for negligence.

At least 53 people have been killed in Pakistan since 1990 after being accused of blasphemy, according to the Center for Research and Security Studies, and accusations are becoming more frequent.

Blasphemy in Pakistan is punishable by death but it is not specifically defined by law. During court cases, lawyers often do not wish to repeat evidence against the accused for fear of being blasphemous themselves.

People have been arrested for just discussing or writing about Islam, making mistakes in homework or not joining protests against a film insulting Islam. In some cases, the accusers have had financial disputes with those who are accused.

Most recently, international attention focused on the case of Rimsha Masih, a Christian teenager accused of having some burnt pages of a child's exercise book quoting the Koran in a bag of rubbish she was carrying.

The case was dismissed last month after a neighbour came forward to say she was framed, possibly to chase Christians out of her neighbourhood.

In the past two years, two senior Pakistani officials who suggested reforming the laws have been shot dead, one by his own bodyguard. Lawyers threw rose petals at the killer and the judge who convicted him was forced to flee the country.

(Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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