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Christian human rights activist booked under Pakistan blasphemy laws

Christian human rights activist booked under Pakistan blasphemy laws

By Dan Wooding
01/26/09 ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Pakistani police have arrested a Christian human rights activist after a member of militant Islamic organization accused him of sending a blasphemous text message from his cell phone.

Hector Aleem, 55, the director of a non-governmental organization, Peace Worldwide, is said to have raised a voice for the local Christians, who were locked in a land dispute with Capital Development Authority (CDA). Demolition of a church built at the controversial property of Park Road Rawal Town added to the ongoing tension.

Kausur Hector, wife of the fresh blasphemy accused told the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) that elements unhappy with Hector's intervention in the church property case have "trapped him" in a false blasphemy case.

Police raided Hector's house situated in sector G-11/2 of Islamabad on January 22, 2009 at 1:30 am after a member of hard-line Islamic organization called Tehrik-e-Sunat accused him of committing blasphemy.

Kausur alleged that the officials of the Shalamar Police Station manhandled Hector and other family members, adding that they took her husband to the police station without even letting him to wear a sweater. She alleged that the police ransacked their house and took along with them valuables besides taking away cash worth Pakistani Rupees 50,000 ($632.4311 USD).

She went on to tell the CLAAS fact-finding team that she was shocked to find out next morning on Jan. 23 that her husband was the only prisoner without a blanket.

It is alleged that the Police did not give Hector a blanket despite repeated requests of Kausur and her daughters. The police gave warm clothes and blanket to Hector only after Kausur took up the matter with an officer in the Ministry of Human Rights.

In a bid to seek legal Aid for Hector, Kausur contacted the National Director of Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), Mr. Joseph Francis, who came to visit Hector Aleem's family to glean facts about the case.

On January 23, 2009, a CLAAS team visited Mr. Khush Dil Khan, an officer in the Ministry of Human Rights along with the family of Mr. Hector Aleem. Khan told visitors that he had already taken action against the police, who he said had raided Hector's house illegally. He held out an assurance to Mr. Francis that he would do all he could to help Hector get out of trouble.

One of CLAAS lawyers, Mr. Malik Asif Taufeeq, will defend Hector Aleem. Headed by Mr. Joseph Francis, the CLAAS fact-finding team visited Hector Aleem on January 23.

"I have been falsely implicated in a blasphemy case. I am a human rights activist. How could I hurt feelings of Muslim brothers?. I never used SMS for any kind of purpose," Hector Aleem told the CLAAS fact-finding team.

Hector Aleem also criticized the police for not providing him with basic needs. He alleged that the police tortured him physically and mentally and would not allow him to see his family.

During its meeting with the investigation officer, the CLAAS team asked why Aleem was arrested when he was not named in the Police First Information Report. The investigation officer told CLAAS he had made the arrest under intense pressure. Believing Hector to be innocent, the police officer expressed hope that Hector would be acquitted on Jan. 26.

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