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Pakistani Cleric Accused Of Sexual Abuse At Religious School

A 70-year-old Muslim cleric has been indicted with sexually abusing a student at a religious school after cellphone videos purporting to show the cleric forcing himself on the student went viral on social media.

The Lahore police on June 17 pressed charges against Azizur Rehman, who denied the accusation, after the student filed a complaint of sexual abuse.

The videos went viral late on June 15, triggering outrage on social media, with many calling for the cleric to be punished. It was not clear how the video clips began circulating on social media.

Rehman said in a video statement he was drugged before the filming of the alleged abuse, and that it was part of a conspiracy to have him expelled from the Jamia Manzoor-ul-Islamia seminary in Lahore.

The madrasah removed the cleric from his position earlier this month after people from the neighborhood showed its administration videos of the alleged sexual assault.

"On the basis of their complaint, and after consulting with the administration, you have been relieved of your duties," the letter issued by the seminary to Rehman said.

A police spokesperson said officers could not locate the cleric when they visited the seminary after the student filed his complaint.

The student, who is said to be in his 20s, said in the complaint he had given several video and audio recordings to help police investigate, and that he had received death threats from Rehman.

The police said the student had told them that the cleric had been abusing him for several years.

There are around 25,000 registered religious seminaries across Pakistan and almost the same number are said to be unregistered. Around 200,000 students are estimated to graduate from these seminaries each year.