An eight-year-old boy could potentially face the death penalty after being charged with blasphemy in east Pakistan.
The Hindu boy is being held in protective police custody and his family are in hiding after a crowd attacked a temple in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab after his release last week, The Guardian reports.
He is accused of intentionally urinating on a carpet in the library of a madrassa last month.
“He [the boy] is not even aware of such blasphemy issues and he has been falsely indulged in these matters. He still doesn’t understand what his crime was and why he was kept in jail for a week,” a member of his family told The Guardian.
“We have left our shops and work, the entire community is scared and we fear backlash. We don’t want to return to this area. We don’t see any concrete and meaningful action will be taken against the culprits or to safeguard the minorities living here.”
Legal experts have been shocked by the blasphemy charge, saying that the move is unprecedented. The boy is the youngest person to have ever been charged with blasphemy in Pakistan.
The death penalty was introduced for blasphemy in 1986 in Pakistan, although no one to date has been executed for blasphemy in the country. Suspects, however, are often attacked and sometimes killed by mobs.
“The attack on the temple and blasphemy allegations against the eight-year-old minor boy has really shocked me,” Ramesh Kumar, a lawmaker and head of the Pakistan Hindu Council told The Guardian.
“More than a hundred homes of the Hindu community have been emptied due to fear of attack.”