Communist Vietnam's secret death penalty conveyor belt: How country trails only China and Iran for 'astonishing' number of executions

Prisoners are dragged from their cells at 4am without warning to be given a lethal injection Vietnam's use of the death penalty has been thrust into the spotlight after a real estate tycoon was on Thursday sentenced to be executed in one of the biggest corruption cases in the country's history. Truong My Lan, a businesswoman who chaired a sprawling company that developed luxury apartments, hotels, offices and shopping malls, was arrested in 2022.

Pakistan | Christian siblings accused of blasphemy cleared of charges

Two Christian brothers facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan were cleared, following allegations that had prompted many Muslims to riot in their neighborhood last August

Two Christian brothers who were facing blasphemy charges in Muslim-majority Pakistan have been cleared of all allegations and set free, their lawyer reported March 1. The accusations against them had previously led to violent riots, with hundreds of Muslims devastating the neighborhood where they lived last August.

Reportedly, torn pages of the Quran, defaced with words offensive to Islam, were found pasted on the walls of a mosque. This incident forced hundreds of Christians to flee their homes, some seeking shelter with their Muslim neighbors. They criticized the police for failing to protect the residents' property.

Over 80 homes and 19 churches in a Christian district of Jaranwala, located in the central-eastern Punjab province, were set ablaze and demolished after rumors spread of the Quran being desecrated by a Christian family.

Immediate release

After the violence, police detained over 125 individuals suspected of involvement, including the two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy. Up to 5,000 Muslims, armed with sticks and stones, had stormed the narrow streets of Jaranwala, wreaking havoc following the announcement of the desecration through loudspeakers. 

The anti-terrorism court tasked with the brothers' case ordered the discontinuation of their prosecution and their immediate release, as stated by their lawyer, Tahir Bashir. "Without a trial, no suspect can be indefinitely held in prison," he remarked, opting not to disclose his clients' identities for safety reasons.

The sensitive subject of blasphemy

Pakistan's blasphemy laws, vehemently upheld by Islamist parties, mandates the death penalty for defaming Prophet Mohammad and makes insulting the Quran or Islam punishable with life imprisonment. However, no death sentence has been carried out under these laws yet.

The issue of blasphemy is highly volatile in this predominantly Muslim, conservative country, where unproven allegations of offending Islam can lead to murders and lynchings. 

Christians, who make up about 2% of the population, are among the lowest social strata and frequently fall victim to baseless blasphemy claims. 

Other religious minorities, as well as politicians, lawyers, and students, have been killed over similar accusations or for defending those accused of blasphemy.

Source: La Croix, Agence France-Presse, March 4, 2024



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