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Christian teenager wrongly charged in “blasphemy” Facebook accusation

South Asia

Christian teenager wrongly charged in “blasphemy” Facebook accusation

Protest against Blasphemy law in Pakistan

Patras Masih, a 16-year-old Christian from Lahore, has been arrested and charged with “blasphemy” by Pakistani police, after an allegedly insulting post appeared on a Facebook group page under his name.

He was charged after a twelve-hour mob protest, which forced the local Christian community to flee their homes.

A Facebook post of a photoshopped image depicting Patras standing on the dome of a mosque appeared online in his name on 16 January. There was no initial response from authorities.

On 19 February hundreds of Muslim protestors blocked roads in the Shahdara district, which is home to 400 Christian families, and began setting tyres alight and throwing stones at Christian properties. According to press reports, crowds swelled after an announcement was made in local mosques. Although police intervened to protect the Christians’ homes, the Christian families fled.

CLAAS (Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement) report that Patras Masih is now under arrest and his family have had to go into hiding.

In their rush to press charges, police registered Patras’ case under section 295-C of the Pakistan penal code, which outlaws “defiling the name of Muhammad” and officially carries the death penalty (although no one has yet been executed under the law).

However, Patras is not accused of insulting Muhammad, but of “hurting religious sentiment”, which would normally legally fall under a different “blasphemy” law (285-A), for which the penalty is up to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine.

In 2013, a Muslim mob torched 170 homes in the Christian community of Joseph Colony in Lahore, following an unsubstantiated “blasphemy” allegation.