Recurrent abuse of blasphemy laws, forged charges against school director
Pakistan: Christian seeks police help, instead receives death sentence for ‘blasphemy’
Gujranwala/Pakistan, 2016-07-01 (WWM) – An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has sentenced a Christian man to death for committing blasphemy against the prophet of Islam. Anjum Sandhu, 60, had initially sought police protection in May 2015, after alleging he was the victim of blackmail and extortion, but he was instead charged with blasphemy by the police, after the men he had accused levelled charges against him.
On 27 June, 2016, Sandhu was sentenced to death and fined 500,000 Pakistani rupees ($4775). Javed Naz and Jafar Ali, the two he had accused of blackmailing him, have also been sentenced to death, but must first serve 35 years in jail. They were each fined 80,000 rupees ($764).
Sandhu, who has an Honours degree in Chemistry and a Masters in English Literature, is one of the three directors of eight branches of the Science Locus School in Gujranwala. In May 2015, Sandhu went to the police to report that Naz and Ali had extorted 20,000 rupees ($191) from him and were demanding a further 50,000 rupees ($477).
“Naz had previously worked at the school, but was dismissed for leaking examination papers, according to one of Sandhu’s relatives,” human rights activist Napoleon Qayyum told World Watch Monitor. The police report, dated 15 May, 2015, states that after Sandhu identified the two, they were arrested and the police found that they had at least 20,000 rupees between them, which the police took from them. But the two men then told the police that Sandhu, during a discussion at his school, had “used blasphemous words” and that they had a recording of him doing so.
However, a close relative of Sandhu’s, who did not wish to be identified, told Qayyum that in 20 years of running schools, Sandhu had never shown any “inclination towards discussing religion”. The relative added that, “since the passing of this judgment, we have locked our houses and moved to an undisclosed location for fear of our lives”.
In Pakistan, dozens of people have been killed over a suspicion they committed blasphemy. Several Christian settlements have also been attacked, looted and set on fire on the pretext of blasphemy.
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