Pakistani Court Clears 14-Year-Old Girl in Blasphemy Case

4798A CONTROVERSIAL blasphemy case against a Pakistani teenage girl was quashed yesterday after the Islamabad High Court threw out the charges but upheld those against a Muslim cleric accused of making false complaints against her.
Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl, spent nearly three weeks in jail on charges of burning pages of the Koran after local Muslim cleric Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti claimed to have seen charred fragments of the Islamic text in a bag of ashes she was carrying from her home.

The girl, said to have learning difficulties, was arrested along with her mother and aunt on August 16 as a furious Muslim mob surrounded her Islamabad enclave, demanding she be handed over and burned alive.

Rimsha's subsequent detention, despite her family's denial of any wrongdoing, drew worldwide condemnation and further unwelcome attention to the draconian law that human rights groups say is widely misused in Pakistan to target minorities and settle personal vendettas.

The court's decision to release her on bail was a rare move and yesterday's quashing of all charges, confirmed both by her lawyer and a Pakistani Christian MP, rarer still.

Paul Bhatti, Pakistan's only remaining Christian member of parliament since minorities affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti was gunned down last year for lobbying for the law's reform, told reporters justice had been done.

"It will send out a positive image of Pakistan in the international community that there is justice for all and that society has risen up for justice and tolerance," Mr Bhatti said.

Mr Chishti, however, must now face charges of blasphemy after his deputy told police in late August that the imam had fabricated the evidence.


Source: The Australian | AMANDA HODGE
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