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Central & South Asia

Pakistan acquits girl of blasphemy charges

Charges against Rimsha Masih of burning Quran have been thrown out after police accused cleric of framing her.
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2012 07:59
Police say Hafiz Chishti, right, the cleric who accused Masih of burning the Quran, should be sent to court [EPA]

Pakistan court has thrown out charges against a young Christian girl accused of blasphemy in a case that drew international condemnation, lawyers said.

Rimsha Masih spent three weeks on remand in an adult jail after she was arrested on August 16 for allegedly burning pages from the Quran.

She was released on bail in September and police have since told the courts that she was not guilty and that a cleric who allegedly framed her should face trial instead.

"The court has quashed the case, declaring Rimsha innocent," her lawyer Akmal Bhatti told the AFP news agency.

Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, a cleric who first gave police the burned papers as evidence against her, was detained on September 1 for desecrating the Quran and tampering with evidence.

An official medical report classified Rimsha as "uneducated" and aged 14, but with a mental age younger than her years.

Others have said she is as young as 11-years-old and suffers from Down's Syndrome.

Paul Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan's federal cabinet, 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 told AFP.
"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.

Rimsha and her family, who have been in fear for their lives since the allegations, were moved to an undisclosed location after her release on bail on September 8.

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