Pakistan quashes Christian girl 'blasphemy' case

A Pakistan court on Tuesday threw out all charges against a Christian girl accused of blasphemy for allegedly burning pages of the Koran in a case that drew international condemnation.

Rimsha Masih, who could have faced life in prison if convicted of the charges, spent three weeks on remand in jail after being arrested on August 16.

She was released on bail in September but she and her family have been in hiding under government protection, fearful for their lives.

Although the decision to drop the case was welcomed, it is unlikely to pave the way for imminent reform of Pakistan's blasphemy legislation, which activists say is too often used to settle personal disputes.

The prosecution said it would appeal the decision in the Supreme Court.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population are Muslims, and under the country's penal code insulting the Prophet Mohammed can be punished by death.

Even unproven allegations can provoke a violent public response.

In a 15-page judgement, Islamabad high court chief justice Iqbal Hameed ur Rahman threw out the case registered against Rimsha and urged Muslims to be "extraordinary careful" while levelling such allegations.

He said putting Rimsha on trial would have seen the courts "used as a tool for ulterior motive" and "to abuse the process of law".

Defence lawyer Tahir Naveed Chaudhry told AFP that the family was "delighted" the case had been dropped, but said they "still live in fear".

Rimsha and her family were moved to an undisclosed location after her release on bail on September 8.

An official medical report classified her as "uneducated" and 14 years old, but with a mental age younger than her years. Others have said she is as young as 11 and suffers from Down's Syndrome.

Paul Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan's federal cabinet, welcomed the "historic" move, saying justice had been done.

"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 told AFP.

He paid tribute to Muslim clerics, members of the media and civil society for also playing a "positive role" in highlighting the injustice done to Rimsha and said it would deter others from levelling false accusations.

There is a separate case against cleric Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, who was granted bail last month after being accused of allegedly desecrating the Koran and tampering with the evidence against Rimsha.

On August 24, Chishti told AFP he thought Rimsha burned the pages as part of a Christian "conspiracy" and demanded action against what he called their "anti-Islam activities" in the impoverished Mehrabad neighbourhood of Islamabad.

Pakistani political analyst Hasan Askari said the courts had acted fairly, but that Rimsha's fate remains uncertain because of the poor track record on how society treats people accused of blasphemy.

Neither did he expect any immediate prospect of legal reforms.

"The government does not have the capacity to withstand the pressure of these religious groups especially at a time when elections are very close," he said.

In 2011, Pakistani politicians Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated for demanding that the blasphemy law be reformed.

And despite international outcry, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, sentenced to death in November 2010 after women claimed she made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed remains in prison, pending an appeal process.

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.

  • First China air force drills in 'far offshore' Pacific
    First China air force drills in 'far offshore' Pacific

    China's air force has carried out its first ever military drill over the western Pacific Ocean, state media said, highlighting Beijing's growing military reach. Several aircraft from China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Monday flew over the ocean via the Bashi Channel, which runs between Taiwan and the Philippines, the official Xinhua news agency said. "This is the first time that the PLA Air Force conducted such drills in an airspace far offshore from Chinese coastlines," Xinhua cited …

  • Shorter hours for rail lines tomorrow
    Shorter hours for rail lines tomorrow

    The Metro Rail Transit (MRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Philippine National Railways (PNR) will have shorter hours tomorrow for the replacement of defective railroad tracks during the Holy Week. …

  • Noy increases allowances for cops, soldiers
    Noy increases allowances for cops, soldiers

    President Aquino has signed a joint congressional resolution raising the daily subsistence allowance for both members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino signed last March 27 the merged Joint Resolution 2 of the Senate and Joint Resolution 26 of the House of Representatives. Speaking to reporters, Lacierda yesterday said the daily allowances of police officers and soldiers were raised from P90 …

  • Oil firms raise gas prices today
    Oil firms raise gas prices today

    This year’s Holy Week break will be accompanied by an increase in local pump prices after oil companies announced yesterday a P1.10 per liter hike for gasoline and P0.60 per liter for diesel effective today. “Phoenix Petroleum Philippines will increase the prices of gasoline by P1.10 per liter and diesel by P0.60 per liter effective 6 a.m. of March 31, 2015 to reflect the movements in the prices of refined petroleum products in the international market,” said Phoenix Petroleum, an independent …

  • DFA denies dropping Phl claim to Sabah
    DFA denies dropping Phl claim to Sabah

    The Philippines has never offered to drop its Sabah claim in exchange for Malaysia’s support for Manila’s arbitration case against China over the West Philippine Sea issue, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday. “In the context of our friendly bilateral relations, our two countries have been for years exchanging ways on how to address the issue of the extended continental shelf (ECS) in the South China Sea,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in explaining the DFA’s …

  • Pagcor remits record high P5 B to national treasury
    Pagcor remits record high P5 B to national treasury

    The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) has remitted P5 billion in cash dividends to the National Treasury, fully settling all its arrears incurred in the last several years. Pagcor chairman and chief executive officer Cristino Naguiat Jr. said with this year’s remittance, the state-owned gaming firm has fully settled all remaining arrears in cash dividends that were incurred by the previous administration since 2005. Pagcor’s cash dividends to the National Treasury under its …

  • Maysak moves closer to Phl
    Maysak moves closer to Phl

    The typhoon with international name Maysak slightly accelerated as it moved closer to the Philippines yesterday, threatening to dump rains over eastern Luzon this weekend, the state weather bureau said. Rene Paciente, senior weather forecaster of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said Maysak was spotted at 2,175 kilometers east of Mindanao as of 1 p.m. yesterday. Paciente said based on their latest forecast, Maysak is likely to affect …

  • Phl gets P2-B climate projects from Germany
    Phl gets P2-B climate projects from Germany

    The Philippines is getting 41 million euros or around P2 billion from the International Climate Initiative (ICI) of Germany that will fund 10 bilateral projects to address the impact of climate change. Climate Change Commission (CCC) vice chairman Lucille Sering yesterday met with Norbert Gorissen – head of the International Climate Finance of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety – to discuss the projects, some of which will be …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options