Christian couple beaten, burned in stove for desecrating Koran in Pakistan

Christian couple beaten, burned in stove for desecrating Koran in Pakistan
Forty-four people have been arrested in Pakistan after an angry mob beat a Christian couple and burned their bodies in a brick-making stove for alleged blasphemy. Some reports suggest the victims were still alive when thrown into the kiln.

The killings took place in the town of Kot Radha Kishan, 60 kilometers southwest of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, on Tuesday morning.

"A mob attacked a Christian couple after accusing them of desecration of the holy Koran and later burned their bodies at a brick kiln where they worked," Bin-Yameen, a local police station official, told AFP.

The police only identified the victims by their first names Shama and Shehzad, adding that they were husband and wife.

According to some Pakistani media reports, the two were still alive when they were dragged into the stove, with some reports even suggesting that the woman was pregnant.

Shama and Shehzad were allegedly held hostage since November 2 before being killed by the mob, who were armed with clubs.

"A mob of several dozen attacked the building where they were," Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a Christian rights activist, was cited by NBC News as saying. "They broke their legs so they couldn't run and then threw them in the fire. Only some bones and hair were found at the site."

The killing took place in the presence of police, who were unable to stop the raging crowd, Gill added.

The Punjabi authorities launched an investigation into the crime, ordering security beefed up in the province’s Christian communities.

On Wednesday, the police detained 44 people in connection with the attack, which they described as "a local issue incited by the mullah of a local mosque."

“No particular sectarian group or religious outfit was behind the attack,” Jawad Qamar, regional police chief, told Reuters.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International said that those responsible for the Punjab murder “must be brought to justice,” urging Pakistani authorities to increase protection of religious minorities.

"This vicious mob killing is just the latest manifestation of the threat of vigilante violence which anyone can face in Pakistan after a blasphemy accusation – although religious minorities are disproportionately vulnerable," said David Griffiths, Amnesty International's deputy Asia Pacific director.

READ MORE:‘Blasphemy’ revenge: Over 100 Pakistani Christians homes set ablaze

Blasphemy is considered a crime punishable by death in Pakistan, where the majority of the population is Muslim.

On many occasions, accusations have led to mob violence against the country’s Christian minority.

Even when they are brought to court, blasphemy charges can be very hard to fight because the local law doesn’t provide a clear definition of the offense.

"Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with a fine, or with both," Pakistan’s criminal code says.

Last month, a mentally ill British man who was sentenced to death for blasphemy was shot by a prison guard in his cell.

A local Christian woman, Asia Bibi, is currently awaiting execution after being found guilty of making blasphemous remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.