Pakistan

Police arrest Christian healer for blasphemy

LAHORE: Police have arrested a Christian faith healer under the country’s blasphemy laws for having Islamic script on a sword he used to treat his clients, officials said Monday.

Naveed John was arrested in the agricultural town of Sargodha, some 175 kilometres (108 miles) southwest of the capital Islamabad, on October 8 after Muslim residents in the area complained, local police official Ameer Mukhtar told AFP.

“The arrest was made after residents complained that the Christian man used a sword for healing patients on which Islamic verses were inscribed and it was offending for their religious sentiments,” Mukhtar said.

A case was registered against John under the blasphemy law, a section of which deals with outraging the religious feelings of citizens, he said.

The accused regarded the sword as a “sacred” item which had healing properties when placed on patients.

Offenders can be imprisoned for up to 10 years under the law.

Investigator Mahmood Ahmad Khan said that police had completed their investigations and submitted a court report.

Critics including European governments say the country’s blasphemy laws are often misused to settle personal scores.

This month the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of a politician who sought blasphemy law reform, in a historic verdict hailed by moderates as a blow against religious extremism.

The ruling prompted prison authorities to put Asia Bibi, a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy, in isolation over fears of attacks by vigilantes.

Officials told AFP last week there had been “genuine” threats to the mother-of-five’s life.

Bibi, whose high-profile plight has prompted prayers from the Vatican, was convicted in 2010 of committing blasphemy during an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water.

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