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Central & South Asia
Pakistan blasphemy case girl freed from jail
Fourteen-year-old Christian girl, accused of burning pages of Quran, has been released a day after she was granted bail.
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2012 14:38
Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti was arrested for allegedly tampering with evidence [EPA]

A Christian girl accused of blasphemy in Pakistan has been released from jail in Rawalpindi, a prison official has said.

Mushtaq Awan said the teenage girl left the prison in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near the capital, Islamabad, on Saturday afternoon.

Paul Bhatti, Pakistan's minister for national harmony, said she was flown by helicopter to be reunited with her family.

"She has been freed from the jail and was transported by a helicopter to a safe place. Her family members received her," he said.

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The girl's lawyer said she had been released after two guarantors posted a surety bond against assurances that she would reappear in court, the AFP news agency said.

The release comes a day after a court in Islamabad granted her bail against sureties of about $10,500 (one million Pakistani rupees) following arrest of an imam who was suspected to have planted evidence to frame her.

In a case that has sparked an international outcry, the girl, who is said to be suffering from a learning disability, was arrested on August 16 for allegedly burning pages containing verses from the Quran.

Last week the imam was remanded in custody for allegedly planting burned pages of the Quran in the girl's bag.

Pakistan private TV channels broadcast footage of the girl wearing a traditional baggy green shirt and dark green trousers stepping out of an armoured vehicle and then sitting in a helicopter.

The case sparked international criticism of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws.

Tampering with evidence

Campaigners stepped up calls for the girl's release after police last Saturday arrested the cleric for allegedly tampering with evidence.

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

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

Blasphemy is a very sensitive subject in Pakistan, where 97 per cent of the 180 million population are Muslims, and allegations of insulting Islam or the prophet Mohammed 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.

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

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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