By BosNewsLife Asia Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Pakistani court has charged 106 suspects with involvement in last year’s lynching and burning to death of a Christian couple in an incident that underscored wider persecution of believers in the heavily Islamic nation, BosNewsLife learned Thursday, May 21.
The Anti-Terrorism-Court (ATC) “also summoned prosecution witnesses to record their statement against the accused,” said Sardar Mushtaq Gill, national director of advocacy group Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD).
Last year, November 4, Christians Shahbaz Maseeh, 26, and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi, 24, were beaten and thrown into the furnace of a brick kiln where they worked after accidentally setting fire to several verses of the Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims, Christians told BosNewsLife at the time.
The incident in Kot Radha Kishan town, some 64 kilometers (40 miles) southwest of Lahore city, happened after their kiln factory manager claimed to have seen half torched Koranic pages between a heap of garbage, according to Christians in the area.
“Police deliberately failed to save the couple because they were Christian. They claimed they were outnumbered by the mob,” Gill told BosNewsLife.
The case prompted LEAD and others to organize protest marched in Punjab provinces to justice at the time. Protesters including Catholic and Protestant church leaders, were seen chanting slogans and holding banners with slogans against blasphemy policies and “ongoing religious persecution” in the country.
Police officials pladged to investigate the case, apparently leading to the arrests of suspects.
This was no isolated incident, as several Christians are known to have been killed over blasphemy allegations.
LEAD and other rights groups say controversial blasphemy legislation has added to an atmosphere of hatred towards the country’s minority devoted Christians.