Mob attacks man accused of blasphemy in northern Pakistan

Protesters hold lamps to condemn the killing of Abdul Wali Khan university student Mashal Khan, after he was accused of blasphemy, during a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan, April 20, 2017. The banner reads, “We are all Mashal’s Brothers.” (REUTERS)
Updated 21 April 2017
0

Mob attacks man accused of blasphemy in northern Pakistan

CHITRAL, Pakistan: A mob attacked a man accused of blasphemy during Friday prayers in a northern Pakistani town and injured six police officers after they intervened to rescue him, police said.
It was the third blasphemy-related incident in Pakistan this month, after a student was beaten to death by a lynch mob and a faith healer was shot dead.
Security officials in Chitral fired tear gas and live rounds on the mob, injuring eight protesters, after they attacked the local police headquarters and demanded that alleged blasphemer Rashid Ahmed be made available for mob justice.
“We told them that Ahmed will be examined medically and if he was found mentally fit then he will be tried under the blasphemy law, but the mob was not satisfied,” said local police chief Akbar Ali Shah.
Shah said he had asked for army assistance to help control the crowds, but a Reuters correspondent at the scene said soldiers had yet to arrive.
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive topic in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where insulting the Prophet Muhammad is a capital crime for which dozens are sitting on death row. There have been at least 67 murders over unproven allegations since 1990, according to figures from a research center and independent records kept by Reuters.
’MESSIAH’ STATEMENT
Witnesses say that Ahmed entered the local mosque asking to make an important announcement, then declared himself a messiah and said that he would lead his followers to paradise.
An angry congregation then turned violent and attacked Ahmed, who Shah said appeared to be suffering from mental illness. He suffered a beating, but police said his injuries were not life-threatening.
Pakistan’s government has been vocal on the issue of blasphemy, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issuing an order last month for the removal of blasphemous content online and saying anyone who posted it should face “strict punishment under the law.”
Police are investigating over 20 students and some faculty members in connection with the killing of Mashal Khan, the student who was beaten to death on April 13 in an attack that shocked the country.
Since then, parliament has discussed adding safeguards to the blasphemy laws, a move seen as groundbreaking in Pakistan where political leaders have been assassinated for even discussing changes.
In 2011, Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer was assassinated by his bodyguard after calling for reforms. Taseer’s killer, executed last year, has been hailed by religious hard-liners as a martyr to Islam and a shrine has been erected at his grave.


France charges two ex-spies with passing secrets to ‘foreign power’

Updated 42 sec ago
0

France charges two ex-spies with passing secrets to ‘foreign power’

PARIS: Two former French spies, one of whom was reportedly posted in Beijing, have been charged with passing intelligence to a “foreign power,” a disclosure that has rocked the country’s intelligence services.
Defense Minister Florence Parly, who oversees the country’s General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), said Friday that she was not in a position to identify the country which recruited the agents, who were discovered and indicted in December.
“Two French agents in our service and probably one of the spouses of these agents are accused of serious acts likely to be considered acts of treason, on suspicions of delivering information to a foreign power,” Parly told CNews television.
“I can’t say much else,” she added.
“France has partners but we live in a dangerous world, and unfortunately these types of things can happen.”
French media reports, citing sources close to the inquiry, said China is suspected.
Parly said the agents were “quite likely” still in service at the time but investigators were still determining how long they had been passing along intelligence.
She also declined to specify the nature of compromised information, nor to reveal if the two agents were working together.
A judicial source told AFP late Thursday that two of the three suspects are being prosecuted for “delivering to a foreign power information that undermines the fundamental interests of the nation” and “compromising the secrecy of national defense.”
“One of them has also been charged for direct incitement to the crime of treason,” the source added.
The third person — believed to be the wife — has been indicted for “concealment of treasonable crimes” and placed under judicial control, meaning they are subject to certain constraints pending trial, according to the same source.
The armed forces ministry said: “These acts of extreme gravity have been detected by this service, which has brought these facts to its knowledge to the Paris prosecutor.”