Case against Pak girl Rimsha Masih accused of blasphemy dismissed

Rimsha Masih
The case filed against a young Pakistani Christian girl, who was detained for three weeks after being falsely accused of blasphemy by an Islamic cleric, was today dismissed by a court here, amid global condemnation.

Chief Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman of the Islamabad High Court, who had last week reserved his judgement on 14-year-old Rimsha Masih's petition seeking the dismissal of the FIR against her, directed police to drop the complaint.

The judge observed that this was a "highly sensitive matter" and people must be very careful while levelling such accusations against anyone.

Fake allegations should not be levelled against any Muslim or non-Muslim, he remarked.

In a 15-page judgement that included references from the Quran, the Chief Justice said no one had seen Rimsha burning any pages of a religious text.

Rimsha's lawyer Akmal Bhatti told reporters that the court had quashed the case and declared his client "innocent".

Paul Bhatti, the only Christian minister in the federal cabinet, confirmed that the case had been thrown out by Islamabad High Court.

Rimsha was arrested under the harsh blasphemy law from a low-income neighbourhood on the outskirts of Islamabad on August 16 after her neighbour Malik Ammad accused her of burning pages from a religious text.

Khalid Jadoon Chishti, the imam of the local mosque, claimed she had burnt pages of the Quran.

The charges against Rimsha led to the exodus of dozens of poor Christian families from the neighbourhood.

Rimsha was detained for three weeks in the high-security Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, where top terrorists are held.

Later, three Muslim men came forward to tell police that Chishti had levelled false allegations against Rimsha after planting burnt pages of a religious text in her shopping bag.

Chishti was arrested and Rimsha was released on bail on September 8.

She and her family were shifted to an undisclosed location for security reasons.

Rimsha's case had again focussed attention on the controversial blasphemy law, which rights groups have said is used to settle personal scores and to persecute members of minority communities like Christians.

The case also prompted concern from Western governments and the Vatican.

An official medical board that examined Rimsha concluded she was aged about 14 years and that her mental development did not correspond with her age.

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