[JURIST] Police in the Pakistani province of Punjab on Tuesday filed charges of blasphemy [JURIST news archive] against 68 lawyers for protesting police actions. Last week several dozen lawyers, mostly from Pakistan’s Shiite minority, staged a protest [NYT report] against a high-ranking police official for detaining and beating a lawyer following a disagreement. The blasphemy charges underscore more widespread tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in Pakistan that have resulted in religious and politically-motivated violence. It is not yet known when the lawyers’ case will be tried.
There have been many incidents involving Pakistan’s highly contentious blasphemy laws in recent years. In March a Pakistani judge sentenced a Christian man to death [JURIST report] for blasphemy. In January a court in Pakistan sentenced a man to death [JURIST report] for being found to have written letters claiming to be a prophet. In August of last year a Pakistani court dismissed charges [JURIST report] against a cleric who was arrested for allegedly framing a Christian girl accused of blasphemy. In April of last year the Lahore High Court in Pakistan acquitted a Christian man [JURIST report] sentenced to death for blasphemy. In November 2012 a Pakistani court ordered police to drop blasphemy charges [JURIST report] against a 14-year-old Christian girl, which sparked international concern over the use of the country’s controversial law.