Police have arrested an 18-year-old Christian boy with learning difficulties after it was claimed he had burned pages from the Quran outside a local Muslim shrine.

Asif Massih, was arrested on the evening of August 12 after police received the allegations. He has been charged under section 295-B of Pakistan’s penal code, part of the Blasphemy Laws, which means he could face the death penalty if found guilty.

The alleged incident took place in Jam Kayk Chattha village, near Wazirabad in central Punjab province, where Asif and his family live.

Police claim said that they took Massih to the police station to protect him from a mob of angry, moving him shortly afterwards to another station for his safety.

“When the police took the suspect into custody … a crowd of around 200 men gathered outside … demanding the culprit be handed over to them,” police spokesman Pervaiz Iqbal told Agence France-Presse.

“We then secretly moved the culprit to the police station in Wazirabad where he was interrogated and confessed to his crime.”

CLAAS has been unable to speak to Mr Massih. However they met with his siblings and grandparents as his home, who explained that Asif has the mental age of a young child.

According to his family the alleged incident in question had occurred several days earlier on July 24. A local Muslim man with a grievance against Asif’s family had been carrying around some burned pages from the Quran, showing them to local Muslims in the community as well as the local police to generate outrage.

The family also claim that Asif confessed after he had been beaten by the police.
“This incident shows misuse of the Blasphemy Laws at their very worst,” commented CLAAS National Director Joseph Francis. “Here is a vulnerable young man with learning difficulties; he is exactly the sort of person that our Police and justice system are here to protect. Instead, he is fearing for his life. It’s outrageous.”