Rimsha Granted Bail
Blasphemy accused minor Christian girl released against two sureties of Rs. 500,000 each.
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 Aug. 16 after being accused of burning papers containing verses from the Koran. “I accept her bail application,” Khan announced to a packed courtroom.
“The bail application has been accepted against two sureties of Rs. 500,000 ($5,200) each.”
The bail amount, a substantial sum for a poor family in Pakistan, will be paid by the All Pakistan Minorities Association, according to Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, Rimsha’s lawyer.
Human Rights Watch, which has been urging Pakistan’s government to act on Rimsha’s behalf, welcomed the court decision but noted that her security needed to be ensured. “All charges against her should be dropped and Pakistan’s criminal justice system should instead concentrate on holding her accuser accountable for inciting violence against the child and members of the local Christian community,” it said in an official statement. “Human Rights Watch hopes that the blatant abuse that has come to light in this case will lead to a considered reexamination of the law and all stakeholders in Pakistan will actively seek to end frequent abuses perpetrated under cover of blasphemy allegations.”
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 Koran among the burnt papers that were brought to him.
Under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, insulting Islam’s Prophet is punishable by death and burning a sacred text by life imprisonment. Blasphemy is a very sensitive subject in Pakistan, where 97 percent of the 180 million population are Muslims, and allegations of insulting Islam or its Prophet 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.
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 where Rimsha had been detained.
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ORIGINAL ARTICLE FROM NEWSWEEK PAKISTAN