Pakistan: Vicious mob killing of Christian couple for 'blasphemy' condemned
“A mob appears to have played judge, jury and executioner”
David Griffiths, Amnesty International
The Pakistani authorities must bring to justice those responsible for the vicious mob killing of a Christian couple accused of blasphemy today, Amnesty International said.
Local police reported that an angry crowd today attacked and killed a Christian married couple in Kot Radha Kishan outside of Lahore, Punjab, and then burned their bodies at the brick kiln where they worked. Rumours circulated that the couple had desecrated a Qu’ran the day before, although the circumstances of this accusation are not clear.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director David Griffiths said:
“This vicious mob killing is just the latest manifestation of the threat of vigilante violence which anyone can face in Pakistan after a blasphemy accusation. Those responsible must be brought to justice and the Pakistani authorities have to ensure at-risk communities are proactively given the protection they need.
“This type of violence is fuelled by Pakistan’s repressive blasphemy laws, which add to the climate of fear for religious minorities. A mere accusation of blasphemy is often enough to put a person and their wider community in danger. In this case, a mob appears to have played judge, jury and executioner.”
Mohammad Asghar, a 70-year-old British man of Pakistan origin, is currently on death row in Pakistan after being sentenced under the country's repressive blasphemy laws. Asghar was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and sentenced to death in 2010, after writing a series of letters claiming to be the Prophet Mohammed. Amnesty is calling for Asghar’s immediate release and for him to return to his family in Edinburgh.
David Griffiths added:
“Repeated failure by the government to tackle violence in the name of religion has effectively sent the message that anyone can commit outrageous abuses and excuse them as defence of religious sentiments.”
The Punjab government has reportedly set up a committee to fast-track the investigation into today’s killings, and ordered additional police protection to Christian neighbourhoods in the province.