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.

  • Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires
    Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires

    Eleven Filipinos are included in Forbes’ 2015 list of richest people in the world. Filipino-Chinese tycoon Henry Sy Sr. continues to be the wealthiest man in the Philippines. The 90-year-old SM supermalls, banking and property tycoon ranked 73rd among the world’s richest with an increased net worth of $14.2 billion from $11.4 billion last year. Sy’s net worth was attributed to the continued growth of his SM Investments Corp. and his more recent venture, the City of Dreams Manila resort and …

  • US ambassador slashed and bloodied in Seoul attack
    US ambassador slashed and bloodied in Seoul attack

    The US ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was slashed on his face and arm in Seoul on Thursday by a lone, blade-wielding activist opposed to ongoing US-Korean military drills. The United States condemned the "act of violence" which left the ambassador bleeding profusely from a deep wound on his right cheek and saw him rushed to hospital where his condition was described as stable. Witnesses described how a man with a blade concealed in his right hand had lunged across a table at Lippert …

  • US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines
    US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen said Wednesday he had found one of Japan's biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, some 70 years after American forces sank it during World War II. Excited historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic, as they hailed the American billionaire for his high-tech mission that apparently succeeded after so many failed search attempts by others. Allen posted photos and video online of parts of what he said was the …

  • World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too
    World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too

    TOKYO (AP) — The world's oldest person says 117 years doesn't seem like such a long time. …

  • New Moro rebel group emerges
    New Moro rebel group emerges

    A radical Muslim cleric trained in the Middle East and considered one of the leaders of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has broken away from the terror group to form his own band of jihadists who are now reportedly providing sanctuary to bomb expert Basit Usman and at least five foreign militants, the military said yesterday. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla, citing reports from the field, said the Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM) was …

  • Pacquiao big hit so far in Vegas sports books vs Mayweather

    LAS VEGAS (AP) — Manny Pacquiao has always believed he can do what 47 other fighters before him have failed to do — beat Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the ring. …

  • Australian drug smugglers being taken to Indonesian island for execution - media
    Australian drug smugglers being taken to Indonesian island for execution - media

    By Jane Wardell and Beawiharta SYDNEY/DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Two convicted Australian drug smugglers were removed from a prison in Bali on Wednesday to be taken to an Indonesian island where they will be shot by firing squad, Australian media reported. The planned executions of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, have ratcheted up diplomatic tensions amid repeated pleas of mercy for the pair from Australia and thrown a spotlight on Indonesia's increasing use of the death …

  • Jolo apologizes to Bong in visit
    Jolo apologizes to Bong in visit

    Cavite Vice Gov. Jolo Revilla wept and embraced his father as he apologized for the “accidental” shooting incident in their Ayala Alabang residence, the family’s spokesman said yesterday. Lawyer Raymund Fortun came out of the private room at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa City to speak to reporters, who were barred from entering the hospital compound during the visit of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options