Pak court convicts imam and his son for blasphemy

A Pak court has sentenced an imam and his son to life imprisonment after convicting them on blasphemy charges.

Lahore: A Pakistani court has sentenced
an imam and his son to life imprisonment after convicting them
on controversial blasphemy charges, officials said on Tuesday.

Less than a week after Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer
was gunned down by a police guard for criticizing the
blasphemy law, Judge Rao Ayub of an anti-terrorism court at
Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab handed down the sentences to 45-year
-old Mohammad Shafi and his son Mohammad Aslam, 20, yesterday.

Shafi, who is the imam of a mosque at Muzaffargarh,
400 km from Lahore, and his son were arrested in April last
year for removing a poster for a religious gathering that was
pasted outside their grocery shop.

The poster reportedly featured Quranic verses,
officials said.

The organizers of the gathering, which commemorated
the anniversary of Prophet Mohammed`s birth, filed a complaint
that alleged the duo had tore the poster and trampled with
their feet.

After convicting the duo for blasphemy, Judge Ayub
handed down two separate prison terms of five years and 10
years to Shafi and Aslam and ordered them to pay fines
totaling Rs 210,000 each.

The defence counsel said the verdict would be
challenged in the Lahore High Court.

Reports said the duo had been accused of blasphemy due
to differences between the Deobandi and Barelvi sects.

Shafi had differences with Haji Phool Mohammad, a man
from the Barelvi school of thought who filed the complaint
against the imam and his son.

Taseer had earned the ire of religious hardliners
after he spoke in the defence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman
sentenced to death under the blasphemy law last year, and
called for reforms in the law to prevent its misuse.

Rights activists have alleged that the law is often
misused to persecute minorities and to settle personal or
political scores.

The blasphemy law, which was introduced during the
regime of late military ruler Zia-ul-Haq, carries the death
penalty for the worst offences.

No one convicted under the blasphemy law has been
executed in Pakistan though dozens of people accused of
blasphemy have been killed by radical elements.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said his
government has no plan to amend the law.