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Pakistani teen accused of blasphemy

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which critics say are often used to intimidate and persecute minorities, have again come under scrutiny, with the police in the port city of Karachi having opened a case against a Christian teenager accused of having sent anti-Islamic text messages, according to local officials and rights activists.

The case follows a highly publicized one earlier this year in which a 14-year-old girl was detained for weeks after being accused of burning pages from a holy book.

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On Wednesday, a mob ransacked the home of Ryan Stanten, 16, after rumors spread that he had used his mobile phone to send blasphemous messages. Stanten and his mother, Rubina Brayn, had already gone into hiding soon after the allegations surfaced the previous day, police officials said.

A relative of Stanten, who asked not to be identified, said some of the teenager’s friends had used his phone to send objectionable messages to some religiously observant neighbors.

It was not clear whether they had done so as a prank or to cause him harm.

Stanten was not in custody, and the police said they did not know his whereabouts. The police said they had opened the case against him to calm the mob, which human rights activists say is a common tactic in such episodes.

In August, a 14-year-old Christian girl in Islamabad was arrested and detained for weeks after being accused of burning pages of a textbook used to teach the Koran to children. After a public outcry, a court released the girl, Rimsha Masih, on bail last month. Later, the police filed charges against the cleric who had spearheaded the accusations against Masih, accusing him of concocting evidence against her. On Thursday, the cleric was also granted bail.

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