Christian youth arrested for blasphemy found dead in Pak jail

via http://www.zeenews.com/news563784.html published on September 16, 2009

Lahore: A Christian youth arrested on charges of blasphemy for allegedly desecrating the Quran was found dead in mysterious circumstances in a jail in Pakistan’s Punjab province on Tuesday.

Officials of the Sialkot district jail claimed Fanish Masih alias Robert, 20, committed suicide by hanging himself from a hook on the door of his cell.

However, leaders of the minority Christian community alleged that Masih was “tortured to death” by jail officials. They said the officials “staged a drama” about Masih committing suicide.

Masih’s family said several signs of torture were found on his body.

David Sohail, director of the Memorial Christian Hospital in Sialkot, said there was “strong circumstantial evidence” that Masih had been tortured to death.

Masih had been accused of desecrating a copy of the Quran after snatching it from a teenage girl who was returning home from a a mosque in Jaithikey-Sambrial village near Sialkot, 80 km from here, a few days ago.

Following the incident, a Muslim mob burnt a Catholic church and ransacked the homes of some Christians in the same area.

After being arrested with some other Christian youths, Masih was remanded to judicial custody for 14 days by a court in Sialkot yesterday. Police in Sambrial have registered a case against unidentified persons for burning the Catholic church.

The situation in Sialkot and adjoining areas continues to be tense over the alleged desecration of the Quran and the burning of the church.

Eight Christians were killed last month when an angry mob of Muslims torched 40 houses and a church in Gojra, 160 kilometres west of Lahore, over alleged desecration of Quran.

Christians, like other minorities, have been targetted in Pakistan for flouting blasphemy laws, which was introduced by former military ruler Zia ul-Haq. International rights groups have urged the government to change the law because it was being used to terrorise religious minorities.

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