Pakistan court charges 106 for pushing Christian couple into brick kiln

(Photo: Courtesy Gatestone Institute)Shama Bibi (left) and Shahzad Masih, a Christian couple and parents of three children, were burned to death by a Muslim lynch mob in Pakistan because of a blasphemy accusation.

A Pakistani court has indicted 106 people who lynched a Christian couple who were accused of blasphemy in Punjab province last year.

An anti-terrorism court found enough evidence to charge the suspects of murdering Shehzad Masih and his wife Shama, who worked at a brick factory in Kot Radhan Kishan city in November.

The couple had been rumored to have burnt pages of the Qur'an in November, an incident that sparked international outrage.

At the time of the killing, Shama was reportedly pregnant.

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Authorities brought the 106 suspects May 21 before the court in Lahore under tight security, and Judge Haroon Latif read the charges against them.

All the accused denied the charges and entered pleas of not guilty, ucanews.com reported.

The charge sheet recounted that police learned about the mob who gathered at the kiln while a patrol happened to pass by the factory.

Police said the mob had been torturing a Christian couple inside the factory, according to a report by the Express Tribune.

Responding to the scene, police found about 500 to 600 people gathered at the brick kiln where the couple was brought by the mob. Police attempted to stop the mob, but people instead beat them up, the document said.

Among the suspects are kiln owner Yousaf Gujjar and three Islamic clerics identified as Maulvi Mohammad Hussain, Maulvi Arshad Baloch and Maulvi Noorul Hassan.

Police said the kiln owner and the clerics stoked the mob's anger by delivering provocative speeches.

Blasphemy is a crime punishable by life imprisonment or death and remains an extremely sensitive topic in Pakistan.

Minority group in the country often say the law on blasphemy is constantly used to persecute them.

Those who have sought reforms to the draconian law, including high-profile Muslims and members of minority communities, but some have been killed, while its perpetrators have remained scot-free.

Among those assassinated after seeking changes to the law were the former Punjab governor Salman Taseer and federal minister for minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti.

Both were killed in 2011 after objecting to the contentious law.

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