Pakistani Judge Grants Bail to Christian Girl Accused of Blaspheming Islam

Posted September 7th, 2012 at 4:25 pm (UTC-5)
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A Pakistani judge has granted bail to a mentally-challenged Christian girl accused of blasphemy against Islam.

Fourteen-year-old Rimsha Masih had spent the last three weeks in jail in Islamabad after neighbors accused her of burning pages from the Quran.

Judge Mohammad Azam Khan ordered her release Friday, setting bail at more than $10,000. The judge gave no reason for his decision, but police arrested a Muslim cleric last week after members of his mosque accused him of planting evidence against the girl. Other Muslim clerics demanded she be freed.

Pakistan's minister for national harmony said the court's decision is a victory for the truth. Rimsha's lawyers argued that the girl has has Down syndrome, which impairs her mental abilities.

Muslim-majority Pakistan has some of the world's toughest blasphemy laws. Anyone found guilty of insulting Islam and the Prophet Mohammad faces the death penalty.

Many Christians living in Rimsha's neighborhood fled the area fearing revenge from Muslims. Human rights groups say some in Pakistan have used blasphemy laws to settle feuds and grudges.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the judge's decision on Friday and said Rimsha never should have been arrested in the first place.

HRW Pakistan Director Ali Dayan Hasan is urging the government to reexamine the country's blasphemy law. He said prosecutors should hold her accuser accountable for inciting violence against the child and Christians.