A Pakistani Christian boy who was accused of blasphemy after a photo of the Kaaba in Mecca, one of the holiest sites in Islam, appeared on his Facebook profile, has been refused bail.
According to World Watch Monitor, lawyers for Nabeel Masih, 16, argued that he should be granted bail as he has no prior convictions and is still a juvenile. However, a magistrate's court in Kasur, 50km south of Lahore, rejected the application.
In October, the lawyers reported being intimidated by the complainant's supporters as they made their Appeal Court appearance. Aneeqa Maria Anthony, head of the legal team representing Masih, said she was told by Amin Muzammal Chaudhry, the lawyer for the complainant to "watch herself and stay away".
He also told her that Masih's "is a blasphemy case and that this man has blasphemed against Islam. You should know that Pakistan is an Islamic state. We are all Muslims. These are Muslim courts, so you should not defend such a criminal. You people come here from Lahore to pursue this case, but there are many people here whom you cannot see, so you better watch yourself and stay away."
She also said about 80 people at the hearing made the courtroom tense, after they protested and threatened Masih's family.
As reported, the image, showing the Kaaba with a pig's head on top, first appeared on the boy's Facebook page in September. At the time, a Muslim man alerted local police of the "insulting and sacrilegious" post.
Shahbaz Ahmed, a police official, said the informant contacted officers over a post "hurting religious sentiments of Muslims and desecrating the religious place" and that the boy "had done a great injustice to us by badly hurting our religious feelings".
Police did not release details of the contents of the post, other than it included a photo of the Kaaba, a black cube-shape built around an ancient stone at the center of Islam's most sacred mosque Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Masih was accused of violating section 295 ("injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class") and 295A ("deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs") of the Pakistan Penal Code. While it is unclear if the boy posted the image, was tagged in the post or liked the post, under Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws, the teenage boy faces the death penalty or a life sentence.
Masih was taken into police custody in Kasur. His family and other Christians in the village have fled their homes as the issue continues to intensify tension in the area.
Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws often target Christians, which make up just 1.6% of the country's population. According to BBC News, "scores" of Christians have been found guilty of desecrating the Koran or of blasphemy since 1990.
According to the 2016 World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian, Pakistan is 6th, just behind Syria. "Pakistan's blasphemy laws continue to be abused to settle personal scores, particularly against minorities including Christians," reports Christian charity Open Doors.