Pakistan imam held in 'blasphemy girl' case

A Pakistani cleric who accused a young Christian girl of blasphemy in a case that sparked international concern was remanded in custody Sunday on suspicion of evidence-tampering and desecrating the Koran.

The girl, Rimsha, has been held in prison since being arrested in the poor Islamabad suburb of Mehrabad more than two weeks ago accused of burning papers containing verses from the Koran, in breach of Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws.

A medical report last week said she had a mental age of less than 14 and her case has prompted concern among Western governments and anger from rights groups who say Pakistan's strict blasphemy legislation is often abused to settle personal scores.

Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, the imam of the mosque in Rimsha's area, who first gave police the burned papers as evidence against her, was detained by police on Saturday evening.

"The imam was arrested after his deputy Maulvi Zubair and two others told a magistrate he added pages from the Koran to the burnt pages brought to him by a witness," police investigator Munir Hussain Jaffri said.

Zubair and the two others, Mohammad Shahzad and Awais Ahmed, said they had urged Chishti not to interfere with the papers, Jaffri said.

"They protested that he should not add something to the evidence and he should give the evidence to the police as he got it and should not do this," Jaffri said.

"But they said Chishti said, 'You know this is the only way to expel the Christians from this area.'"

On August 24 Chishti told AFP he thought Rimsha had burned the pages deliberately as part of a Christian "conspiracy" to insult Muslims, and said action should have been taken sooner to stop what he called their "anti-Islam activities" in Mehrabad.

Jaffri said the cleric was arrested at his home on Saturday under the blasphemy law.

"By putting these pages in the ashes he also committed desecration of the Holy Koran and he is being charged with blasphemy," he said.

Rimsha's lawyer Tahir Naveed Chaudhry said the case against her was fatally flawed.

"This development has created doubts and under the law, the benefit of the doubt is always given to the accused," he told AFP.

"Now it has been fully proven that it was a conspiracy. We want that Rimsha should be acquitted immediately."

Chishti, who arrived at court on Sunday blindfolded and handcuffed and guarded by armed police commandos, was remanded in custody for 14 days and will be held at the same jail as Rimsha.

Speaking to reporters, Chishti said the allegations against him were "concocted".

Rao Abdur Raheem, the lawyer for Rimsha's accuser, her neighbour Hammad Malik, said the development was intended to "spoil" his case and he accused the authorities of interfering.

"They are pressurising the complainants and witnesses to facilitate the bail of Rimsha," he told the court.

"They are making threats on behalf of the people sitting in the president's house."

A medical report earlier this week said Rimsha appeared to be around 14 years old, which would make her a minor, and had a mental age below her true age, but the court has yet to decide whether to accept the assessment.

Some reports have said Rimsha has Down's Syndrome.

She is being held in a high-security jail in Islamabad's twin city Rawalpindi and on Friday a judge extended her remand for another two weeks.

On Sunday around 150 Christians and rights activists held a protest march in Rawalpindi calling for Rimsha's release.

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

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • OIC asked to complete review of peace pact with MNLF
    OIC asked to complete review of peace pact with MNLF

    The Philippine government is asking the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to finally complete the tripartite review process of the implementation of the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The review – snagged  for several years as government had its hands full with the peace process with rival faction Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – tackles how the 1996 peace pact with the MNLF has been implemented and centers on the three remaining …

  • Alleged Binay dummies appear in Senate probe
    Alleged Binay dummies appear in Senate probe

    Eight of the resource persons ordered arrested by the Senate finally attended the 21st public hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee into the alleged anomalies involving Vice President Jejomar Binay, but the proceedings turned out to be a review of matters previously presented. For over three hours, the subcommittee heard presentations regarding the alleged hidden assets of Binay and the issue regarding the supposed P200 million in kickbacks he received from a deal between the Boy …

  • DOJ wraps up Mamasapano probe
    DOJ wraps up Mamasapano probe

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) is wrapping up its investigation into the “massacre” of 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25. A joint team of prosecutors and NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) investigators is about to finish the second part,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has told congressmen. She was responding to questions raised by former senior police officer and now Rep. Samuel Pagdilao of party-list …

  • APEC meet in Bataan seen to boost tourism
    APEC meet in Bataan seen to boost tourism

    BALANGA CITY, Bataan – More than 2,000 delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and international media outfits are expected to enjoy the splendid coastline of Bagac town, which faces the West Philippine Sea, as they converge for a workshop in this province next month. …

  • DOST opens P54-M research facility
    DOST opens P54-M research facility

    A P54-million research and development facility of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) was recently opened in Bicutan, Taguig for scientists and researchers to develop technology and techniques to allow Filipino fashion and clothing designers and manufacturers to produce more mainstream products from local, tropical fabrics like piña, banana and abaca. Science Secretary Mario Montejo said the Innovation Center for Yarns and Textiles (ICYT) is the DOST’s flagship effort at reviving …

  • DFA worried about alleged violations of convicted Pinoys’ rights
    DFA worried about alleged violations of convicted Pinoys’ rights

    Philippine embassy officials in Doha have raised their concern with Qatari authorities over coercion and human rights violations in the alleged forcing of three Filipino workers convicted of spying to provide information and confess to the crime. Speaking to reporters, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose yesterday said the embassy has raised the matter during several high-level meetings with Qatari officials and the national human rights committee in Qatar. “Our embassy …

  • US affirms ‘ironclad’ promise to defend Phl
    US affirms ‘ironclad’ promise to defend Phl

    US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told his Philippine counterpart on Wednesday that Washington’s pledge to defend the Pacific nation remains “ironclad” and called for an end to land reclamation in the South China Sea, officials said. In talks in Hawaii with Voltaire Gazmin, Philippine secretary of national defense, the Pentagon chief “reaffirmed” the strong ties between the two countries and discussed territorial disputes in the contested waters of the South China Sea, where Beijing has been …

  • ‘Conflict to affect economic growth, stability in SEA’
    ‘Conflict to affect economic growth, stability in SEA’

    Conflict in the South China Sea can affect economic growth and stability in Southeast Asia, New Zealand warned yesterday, amid China’s aggressive reclamation activities in disputed waters. New Zealand is marking its 40 th year of diplomatic ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and hopes to intensify trade and other linkages with the 10-member grouping. ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have overlapping territorial claims with China over the Spratly …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options