Pakistani cleric accused of sexual abuse at religious school | World news

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Muslim cleric who has led rallies against blasphemy in Pakistan has been accused of sexually abusing a student at a religious school, police said Thursday.

Police said charges were laid against Aziz-ur-Rehman after cellphone videos claiming to show the cleric imposed himself on the student went viral on social media.

The case caused a stir in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country, and outrage on social media, with many calling for strict punishment for the cleric.

Rehman denied the sexual abuse charge in a video statement posted to social media, saying he was drugged before the alleged abuse was filmed. He said it was part of a plot to kick him out of the seminary, the Jamia Manzoor-ul-Islamia.

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Rehman, who is in his sixties and a member of a major religious political party, worked as a seminary guard for several years.

The seminary said the cleric had been kicked out of his post, and Wafaq-ul-Madaris, the body that oversees the religious school system, said it had stripped him of his title of mufti, which means a scholar. religious.

A police spokesperson said police were unable to locate the priest during his visit to the seminary after the student filed a sexual abuse complaint.

The student, who police said appeared to be in his twenties, said in his complaint that he gave several video and audio recordings to help police investigate, adding that he went into hiding because ‘he had received death threats.

Police said the student told them the cleric had mistreated him for several years. He said he started filming the abuse after he got tired of it, and sent the video clips of the abuse to the head of Wafaq-ul-Madaris.

It was not clear exactly how the video clips began to circulate on social media.

Rehman has often been seen in photos and videos of anti-blasphemy rallies organized in recent months to denounce the publication of cartoons in France depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Over 2.2 million children attend religious seminars in Pakistan. Cases of sexual abuse are often hushed up, although some parents have recently come forward to file complaints.

A non-governmental organization called Sahil that works to end child abuse reported 2,960 cases of child sexual abuse in 2020 across the country, not just in seminars.

(Writing and additional reporting by Asif Shahzad in Islamabad; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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