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July 27, 2017

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Pakistan police open blasphemy case over Hindu temple attack

KARACHI, Pakistan--Pakistani police said Sunday that they had opened a rare blasphemy case against nine people who attacked and looted a Hindu temple in Karachi during recent anti-U.S. protests.

Blasphemy is hugely sensitive in Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population is Muslim, and allegations of insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad prompt fury. Blasphemy can result in life imprisonment or the death penalty.

However it is unusual for Muslims to be charged under the legislation and nobody in Pakistan has ever been prosecuted for attacking a minority place of worship, although attacks on churches and temples are common.

"A case under the blasphemy law has been registered against nine people for ransacking a Hindu temple and looting gold ornaments from there in Gadap Town neighborhood on Sept. 21," local police station chief Jaffar Baloch told AFP.

The accused, all men, were at large and police were searching for them, he said.

Police said that about 250 Hindu families lived in impoverished Gadap Town, along with other minority communities of Christians and Sikhs.

Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws have come under the spotlight after a Christian girl spent three weeks on remand in an adult jail after she was arrested on Aug.16 for allegedly burning pages from the Quran

Last week a judge in the capital Islamabad ordered police to refer the case of Rimsha Masih to a juvenile court, following a medical report that said she was 14.

Her high-profile plight took a dramatic turn when a Muslim cleric who had accused her was arrested for allegedly planting evidence against her and on charges of himself desecrating the Quran

Muslim protests erupted worldwide, sometimes violently, in September over the crudely made film "Innocence of Muslims" and the demonstrations quickly turned against the United States, where the film was said to have been made.

Pakistan, where anti-American feeling is rife, experienced the worst of the violence and on Sept. 21 nationwide rallies mobilized more than 45,000 people, many members of right-wing religious parties.

At least 21 people were killed and 229 wounded, mainly in clashes with police.

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