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Life sentence for burning Koran

BBC, UK
Oct. 18, 2004
news.bbc.co.uk

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday October 20, 2004

A Pakistani man has been sentenced to life imprisonment for burning a copy of the Koran.

A court in Lahore found Mehdi Hassan, 36, guilty under Pakistani laws covering offences against Islam, the prophet Mohammed or the Koran.

The defendant had denied the charge, which can carry the death penalty, saying the case had arisen from a property dispute.

Hassan’s lawyer said his client planned to appeal to the Lahore High Court.

Additional sessions court judge Anwar Chaudhry said the prosecution “had proven its case”.

‘Draconian’

Hassan was detained in December 2001 after a complaint by a councillor in eastern Lahore.

He was accused of burning a copy of the Koran in his yard.

Rights groups have criticised Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as draconian, with the burden of proof too easy for the prosecution.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has in the past called for changes in procedures so investigators can test the validity of blasphemy accusations before cases reach the courts.

Analysts say judges are often too scared of the reaction from powerful local Islamic leaders to throw out cases.

No-one has been hanged for blasphemy in Pakistan, largely because higher courts often overturn blasphemy convictions.

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