News24

Christian 'blasphemy' girl gets bail

2012-09-07 14:00

Islamabad - A Pakistani court on Friday granted bail to a Christian girl accused of blasphemy, in a case that has sparked an international outcry.

Judge Muhammad Azam Khan ordered the release of Rimsha Masih, who was arrested in a poor Islamabad suburb on 16 August accused of burning papers containing verses from the Qur'an.

"I accept her bail application," Khan announced to a packed courtroom.

"The bail application has been accepted against two sureties of [$5 200] each."

Campaigners stepped up calls for her release after police on Saturday arrested a cleric for allegedly tampering with the evidence.

His deputy and two assistants said Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti tried to bolster the case against the girl by planting pages from the Qur'an among the burnt papers that were brought to him.

Postponements


Rimsha had been held in the high-security Adiyala jail in Islamabad's twin city Rawalpindi.

She is "uneducated" and has a mental age of less than 14 years old, according to a medical report, and her case prompted international concern and anger from rights campaigners.

Proceedings to free Rimsha on bail have been repeatedly postponed, most recently on Monday when Judge Muhammad Azam Khan again adjourned the matter after the lawyer for her accuser asked for a stay to show solidarity with a provincial lawyers' strike.

A group of around a dozen people suffering from Down's syndrome stood outside the court and demanded to meet Rimsha, but she was not brought to court from jail.

"We want to meet the Down's Syndrome girl Rimsha," said a banner they were holding.

It is unprecedented to see anyone investigated for making a false allegation or interfering with evidence in blasphemy cases.

Sensitive subject

Under Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws, insulting the prophet Muhammad is punishable by death and burning a sacred text by life imprisonment.

Blasphemy is a very sensitive subject in Pakistan, where 97% of the 180 million population are Muslims, and allegations of insulting Islam or the prophet Muhammad often prompt a furious public reaction.

Rights groups have called on Pakistan to reform its blasphemy legislation, which they say is often abused to settle personal vendettas and even unproven allegations can prompt a violent public response.

In 2011, leading politician Salman Taseer and a Christian cabinet minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, were assassinated after calling for the law to be reformed.

Taseer's convicted killer is being held in the same jail as Rimsha.

Comments
  • allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-09-07 15:05

    Burn a copy of Lord of the Rings or insult Gandalf and we'll kill you.

  • douglas.reid.921 - 2012-09-07 15:13

    Nothing more poisonous than religion. People kill in the name of a god they have never seen and exists as a figment of their imagination.

      jpstrauss - 2012-09-09 16:10

      Go tell that to the millions of Christians purged in the name of atheism in Russia, China and Vietnam.

  • arthur.hugh - 2012-09-07 15:36

    Backward bunch of religious yobbo's.

  • michael.a.devilliers - 2012-09-07 17:20

    Let's hope the ones who actually have access to the nukes in this country are more sane.

      LanfearM - 2012-09-08 08:34

      I think they are "sane" for only one reason, and that is that if they launch any nukes, they will be anhilated in turn. Everyone is scared of nuclear war.

  • phillip.havenga - 2012-09-07 22:16

    Bunch of filth.

  • LanfearM - 2012-09-08 08:33

    There shouldn't BE any "blasphemy" laws in a country! When are these people going to wake up? The middle ages are long gone.

  • gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-09-08 15:45

    That girl should just be sent home to her parents. That's all. Problem solved.

  • kafantaris2 - 2012-09-09 00:02

    Seeing the pious Pakistanis enforce antiquated blasphemy laws in the 21st century should give us pause. Reflecting that the same Pakistanis have threatened to use their country's nuclear bomb on their populous neighbor should interrupt our sleep. Why then are we preoccupied only with the prospect of a nuclear Iran?

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