An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan yesterday charged 106 people with the murder of a Christian couple who were lynched after being accused of blasphemy in Punjab province last year. Shehzad Masih and his wife, Shama, who was reportedly pregnant, were beaten and burned to death in a furnace following rumors that two had burned pages of the Qur'an in the city of Kot Radha Kishan. The incident in November last year sparked international outrage. Some 400 people are believed to have taken part in the lynching. The 106 people charged yesterday were produced before the court in Lahore amid strict security, local media reports said. Anti-terrorism court judge Haroon Latif proceeded to indict the accused for the couple’s murder of the couple. All pleaded not guilty. Police say Yousaf Gujjar, the brick kiln owner, and three clerics, Maulvi Mohammad Hussain, Maulvi Arshad Baloch and Maulvi Noorul Hassan made provocative speeches to incite the mob. The blasphemy law, which can carry the death sentence or life imprisonment, is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan. Minority groups say the law is often used as a tool for persecuting them. Members of minority religions and several high-profile Muslims have been killed for seeking changes to the law. Former Punjab governor, Salman Taseer, and the federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, were both assassinated in 2011 for speaking out against the controversial law.
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