Pakistani Christian charged with blasphemy over Mecca snap

AFP , Tuesday 20 Sep 2016

A Pakistani Christian teen has been charged with blasphemy over a derogatory picture of Islam's holiest place, police said Tuesday.

Nabeel Chohan was arrested for liking and sharing on social media a disparaging photograph of the Kaaba, the building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that Muslims turn and pray to five times a day.

Chohan, who is 18 and from Punjab province, also kept the picture on his phone, police said.

A Muslim friend of Chohan's informed police after seeing the Facebook post on September 16 and the teen was arrested after his friend filed the blasphemy case, police official Shahbaz Ahmed said.

"A case of hurting religious sentiments of Muslims and desecrating the religious place has been lodged," Ahmed told AFP.

Muhammad Hussain, the investigating police officer, confirmed the arrest and told AFP Chohan was in a police cell.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in conservative Muslim Pakistan, where even unproven allegations can provoke beatings and mob violence.

It has extremely strict laws against blasphemy -- including the death penalty for insulting the Prophet Mohammed -- and rights campaigners say they are often used to settle personal disputes in a country where 97 percent of the population is Muslim.

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