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Twitter Suspends Account Of Radical Cleric For Threats In Bibi Blasphemy Case

FILE: Pakistani radical cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi
FILE: Pakistani radical cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi

Pakistan's government says Twitter has suspended the account of a radical Pakistani cleric for posting inflammatory statements against the Supreme Court, prime minister, and military after the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said it requested that Twitter suspendthe account of cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi after his Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) party blocked off roads for three days last week and threatened Supreme Court judges who acquitted Asia Bibi on October 31.

PTA officials said they’d complained that Rizvi incited "hate and violence" by urging the cooks and servants of the Supreme Court judges to kill them.

Twitter did not immediately comment.

Criminal cases have also been registered against hundreds of demonstrators and organizers of protests that took place during the past week against the court’s decision, the Dawn newspaper reported on November 4.

Senior police officer Nayab Haider said that more than 150 people were arrested on charges of arson, vandalism, and violence during the demonstrations.

He said that police were using video clips to identify those involved in assaults, torching property and vehicles, and blocking highways.

A government official estimated that the protesters caused around $1.2 billion in damages.

Bibi, a mother of five, had spent eight years on death row for allegedly insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad before the court overturned her conviction and ordered her to be freed. Bibi has denied the charges.

Her husband, Ashiq Masih, on November 4 pleaded to be granted asylum by Western countries, saying his family was in great danger in Pakistan.

"I am requesting [U.S.] President Donald Trump to help us to leave [Pakistan], and I am requesting the prime minister of the U.K. help us and as far as possible grant us freedom," Masih said in a video message.

He also called on Canadian leaders for help.

Meanwhile, a Dutch group called the Association for Persecuted Christians said on November 5 that the lawyer who defended Bibi in the Pakistani courts has fled to The Netherlands.

The lawyer, Saiful Mulook, told Reuters on November 3 that he had left Pakistan "to save [my] life from an angry mob" and because of fears for the safety of his family.

Rizvi has said "there will be a war" if Pakistani authorities allow Bibi out of the country.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere rumor of committing the crime has led to lynchings in the past.

Approximately 40 people are believed to be on death row or serving a life sentence in Pakistan for blasphemy, according to a 2018 report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and Dawn

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