ICC Note: More details continue to emerge surrounding the grisly murder of a Pakistani Christian couple who were accused of desecrating the Quran before a mob of 1,200 beat and then burned the couple alive. The killing has sparked outcry across the country in protest against the country’s blasphemy laws that fuel sectarian violence.
11/07/2014 Pakistan (NBC News) mob accused of burning alive a Christian couple in an industrial kiln in Pakistan allegedly wrapped a pregnant mother in cotton so she would catch fire more easily, according to family members who witnessed the attack.
Sajjad Maseeh, 27, and his wife Shama Bibi, 24, were set upon by at least 1,200 people after rumors circulated that they had burned verses from the Quran, family spokesman Javed Maseeh told NBC News via telephone late Thursday. Their legs were also broken so they couldn’t run away.
“They picked them up by their arms and legs and held them over the brick furnace until their clothes caught fire,” he said. “And then they threw them inside the furnace.”
Bibi, a mother of four who was four months pregnant, was wearing an outfit that initially didn’t burn, according to Javed Maseeh. The mob removed her from over the kiln and wrapped her up in cotton to make sure the garments would be set alight.
Although burning the Quran is technically punishable by death in Pakistan, Tuesday’s killing in Punjab province has triggered protests by the country’s Christians and prompted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to say he would show “no mercy” to those responsible.
As rumors gathered pace that they had burned pages from the Muslim holy book, the couple tried to flee but were forbidden to leave by the brick factory’s owner. Just like their parents, the slain pair worked under an arrangement of bonded labor and the owner said they owed him money.
Accompanied by a dozen people, factory owner Yousaf Gujjar allegedly went to the couple’s home last weekend and locked them in an office so they couldn’t leave. By Tuesday, loudspeaker announcements from local mosques were branding Sajjad and Shama as “blasphemous” and saying they should be “wajib-ul-qatal,” which translates as “necessarily murdered,” according to the family’s account.