Pakistani cleric who led anti-blasphemy rallies held for sexual abuse

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A photo released by the Capitol City Police Officer (CCPO) on June 20, 2021, shows a police officer escorting handcuffed Aziz-ur-Rehman (R) after he was detained, and, what police says, charged with sexually abusing a student at a religious school, in Lahore, Pakistan. Capitol City Police Officer (CCPO)/Handout via REUTERS

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LAHORE, Pakistan, June 21 (Reuters) - Pakistani police said on Monday that a hardline Muslim cleric had appeared in court hours after they arrested him on charges of sexually abusing a student at a religious school.

The charges against Aziz-ur-Rehman, in his early 60s, who has been leading anti-blasphemy rallies over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, were filed last week after cellphone videos purporting to show the cleric forcing himself on the student went viral on social media. read more

The cleric has denied the accusation in a video statement on social media, saying that he was drugged before the filming.

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The court ordered police to obtain medical and DNA tests on the cleric, a police spokesman told Reuters.

The case has caused a stir in Pakistan, a mainly Muslim country, and outrage on social media.

The student, who police said appeared to be in his early 20s, said the cleric had been abusing him for the last three years.

Rehman, a member of a prominent religious political party, worked for several years as a custodian at the seminary, which has now expelled him.

The student told police that he filmed the abuse and sent clips to the head of the Wafaq-ul-Madaris, a body that oversees education at religious seminaries.

It was not clear how the video clips appeared on social media.

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Writing by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Giles Elgood

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