Dozens held in Pakistan for trying to lynch brothers accused of blasphemy - police

·2-min read

By Asif Shahzad

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani police arrested dozens of men on Tuesday on charges of attacking a police station in a bid to lynch two brothers held in custody accused of desecrating a Muslim mosque, officials said.

A mob broke into the police station on the outskirts of the capital Islamabad on Monday ahead of an hours-long standoff with police.

Some 36 have been arrested and charged with attacking the station under anti-terrorism laws. Police took the brothers, accused of blasphemy, to safety along with some wounded officials, police said.

"Give us the accused. We will decide what to do with them," police officer Asim Ghaffar quoted the mob as saying. "They said they wanted to behead the accused."

Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafaat told Reuters most of the 36 arrested men were refugees from neighbouring Afghanistan.

The two brothers were accused of blasphemy for allegedly tearing up a banner inscribed with the names of the companions of Prophet Mohammad from the outer wall of a mosque, police said. They also pelted the mosque with stones, police said.

Insulting Islam's Prophet Mohammad or desecrating places of worship carries a mandatory death penalty or life in prison in Pakistan, that has the harshest blasphemy laws in the world.

A EU parliament resolution adopted last month called for stripping Pakistan of tax exemption on its exports to the bloc for failure to stem a rise in blasphemy accusations.

The resolution also called on Pakistan to "unequivocally condemn" incitement to violence and discrimination against religious minorities and expressed "deep concern" at the prevailing anti-French sentiment.

A hardline Islamist group clashed with police last month in several days of violent anti-France protests, calling for the expulsion of the French ambassador over cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammad published in France, which killed at least eight police and wounded hundreds.

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Nick Macfie)