A Pakistani Christian who heads a small organization that fights for the rights of Pakistani Christians was recently arrested and charged with blasphemy in a case some believe is a set-up to punish the rights activist.
Hector Aleem, 51, was arrested on Jan. 22 and has been detained on charges that he sent a text message that insulted the Muslim prophet Muhammad, according to Compass Direct News.
But court documents showed the original text message was sent from an unregistered mobile number that did not belong to him.
Aleem's lawyer told Compass that his client had been framed because he had made legal challenges on behalf of Christians concerning a land dispute. A local government was threatening to demolish a local church building.
During Aleem's arrest, police had used unnecessary violence when they reportedly assaulted his wife and two daughters. They are also said to have stolen 50,000 Pakistani rupees (U.S. $630) worth of valuables, according to the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS). Moreover, the police reportedly broke portraits of Jesus hanging on the walls.
In prison, Aleem is reportedly being maltreated with authorities not giving him adequate food and access to the medication he needs for his heart condition. His lawyer also said he has not been able to meet his family.
Although the anti-terrorism court acquitted Aleem on Feb. 2 of blasphemy charges due to lack of evidence, he is still not clear of all charges of involvement. The next court hearing for Aleem will be held some time in March.
Meanwhile, a man named Bashar Kokar has been charged with blasphemy and arrested. Pakistani rights experts say Kokar is being used as a scapegoat – since the text message was not sent from Kokar's phone either – to appease extremists who have threatened to kill Aleem once he was released.
Blasphemy laws in Pakistan have often been abused by Muslims who use them as tools of revenge on Christians for land disputes and arguments. Christians make up less than five percent of Pakistan's population.
In a recent interview with the president of Open Doors USA, a group that supports the persecuted church, Carl Moeller noted that although there is sever Christian persecution in Pakistan, not many people are aware of it.
"I think most Americans need to remember that when they see Pakistan listed as one of the most dangerous places on earth, it is not just a general statement," Moeller said to The Christian Post last week. "It is actually more intensely bad for the Christians that exist in Pakistan."