Two Pakistani Christian teenagers facing a possible death sentence for blasphemy are protesting their innocence over the charges.
A policeman in Lahore claimed he overheard the 14 and 18-year-old disrespecting Islam and lodged an official complaint.
Both boys were arrested and put in jail despite the oldest boy’s Catholic father Babar Sandhu Masih claiming it was a false accusation that was “completely baseless.”
“Both boys flatly denied the allegation and insisted they had said nothing that involved a mention of the Muslim prophet. When local elders of the neighbourhood asked the police officer to substantiate his accusation, he failed to satisfy them and left,” Mr. Masih told Morning Star News.
He believes the officer made up a story to save face when he couldn’t provide any evidence after being caught assaulting the teenagers.
“He does not have a good reputation in the locality which is why many locals did not take his allegation seriously. Our Muslim neighbours have known us for years and they know we would never indulge in anything that could hurt their religious sentiments,” the father continued.
“Police should have investigated the veracity of the allegation before arresting the boys.”
Morning Star News reports at least 500 Christian families live in the neighbourhood but there has been no religious tension for years.
Family lawyers accused the police of using excess haste in arresting the boys and hope to get them freed on bail in the coming days.
Several people have been lynched over recent false accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan.
At least 57 cases of alleged blasphemy were reported in Pakistan between January 1 and May 10 while four blasphemy suspects were lynched or extrajudicially killed during the same period, according to the Lahore-based Center for Social Justice and People’s Commission for Minorities Rights (PCMR) .
In response to these alarming figures, retired Justice Nasira Javaid Iqbal, the patron-in-chief of PCMR, urged the government to stop the misuse of the harsh laws.
“The blasphemy laws have been consistently misused to settle personal disputes, persecute minority groups, and incite mob violence and hatred. We demand prompt action and a collective effort by the government to address these human rights violations,” she said in a statement.