ASIA/PAKISTAN - A Christian arrested on false charges of blasphemy in Punjab, there is concern for his life

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Khurram Masih, a 25-year-old Christian worker resident in the town of Qazi, near Lahore (in Punjab), was arrested on false charges of blasphemy. As reported to Fides by the "Masihi Foundation", which deals with the rights of Christians and the legal defense of Asia Bibi, Khurram Masih, a mason by profession, married 2 months ago, was working at the residence of the Muslim Abdul Majeed. Last night, after work, Masih burned pieces of wood and paper, basically waste material. Abdul Majeed, saw the fire and began to cry out that Khurram Masih had ripped and burned parts of the Koran. The other Muslim workers took Masih and brought him to the local police station. Abdul Majeed filed a complaint for blasphemy against Khurram, which was oficially registered this morning with the First Information Report No. 1112/11 for the violation of art. 295b of the Pakistan Penal Code (disrespect toward the Koran). The intervention of religious leaders and human rights activists of the Masihi Foundatin at the police station –where they protested about the false allegations – was not enough to secure the release of Khurram Masih, who remains in custody and will appear before a court tomorrow. Meanwhile, extremist groups have staged demonstrations, announcing that "a Christian has desecrated the Koran and must be punished". A note of the "Masihi Foundation", sent to Fides, said: "The young man is innocent and the accusations of blasphemy are false. The person who lodged the complaint is connected with religious groups and is known for his hatred toward non-Muslims. In this area hatred towards Christians is spread. Khurram Masih's life is in danger. The authorities must take the necessary measures for his protection".(PA) (Agenzia Fides 06/12/2011)