70 people accused of anti-Christian violence acquitted in Pak

Anti-Christian violence

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Tuesday acquitted 70 people accused of involvement in violence against the minority Christian community that left eight persons dead in Punjab province's Gojra town nearly two years ago.

The court in Faisalabad gave its verdict due to the absence of five key witnesses, who are not in Pakistan.

The 70 people were arrested on charges of attacking and setting on fire a Christian colony in Gojra in July 2009.

Violence erupted at Koriaan village, part of Gojra sub-division and located 160-km from Lahore, when Muslims alleged some Christians had burnt pages of the Quran during a wedding.

The Muslims attacked a Christian colony.

Over 50 houses and two churches were set ablaze or ransacked.

Police registered a case under the Anti-Terrorism Act against the suspects but none of them were convicted. Several other suspects were declared innocent during the investigation into the incident.

Christian community leaders alleged the police released some of the accused because of political pressure.

Reports had said that activists of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba and Sipah-e-Muhammad were involved in the violence.

Earlier this year, Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the federal cabinet, was gunned down by suspected Taliban fighters in Islamabad after he opposed the controversial blasphemy law.

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