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Blasphemy charges against Christian Pakistani girl thrown out

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 20th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A Christian Pakistani girl who faced blasphemy charges for allegedly burning pages from the Quran has had those charges thrown out of court. The case drew international attention, as the 14-year-old girl Rimsha Masih is reportedly not as intelligent as her age, and may possibly have Down's syndrome. The cleric who originally accused her of the act is now in custody.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Rimsha spent three weeks on remand in an adult jail after she was arrested on August 16 for alleged act. She had been released on bail in September. Police have since told the courts that she was not guilty -- and that a cleric who framed her should face trial instead.

"The court has quashed the case, declaring Rimsha innocent," her lawyer told reporters.

Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, the cleric in question, gave police the burned papers as evidence against her. He has been detained since September 1 on suspicion of desecrating the Quran and tampering with evidence.

The only Christian member of Pakistan's federal cabinet Paul Bhatti confirmed that the case had been thrown out by the high court in the capital Islamabad.

"I welcome this order. Justice has been done and the law of the land has been upheld by the court," he says.

"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," he added.

The news comes as very welcome for Rimsha and her family, who had been in fear for their lives since the allegations. They had been moved to an undisclosed location after her release on bail on September 8.
 
Pakistan's Islamabad High Court ordered a police report against Rimsha Masih discharged on Tuesday.

In Muslim Pakistan, the mere allegation of an offense to Islam can mean death. Those accused under an anti-blasphemy law are sometimes lynched by the public even if they are found innocent by the courts.

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