Pakistani Judge Grants Baill to Girl Accused of Blasphemy

Posted September 7th, 2012 at 6:05 am (UTC-5)
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A Pakistani judge has granted bail to a Christian girl accused of blasphemy.

Rimsha Masih was arrested last month in Islamabad after angry neighbors accused her of burning pages from the Quran.

During a hearing on Friday, a Judge Judge Mohammad Azam Khan ordered Masih's release after hearing arguments from lawyers on both sides. She has been in police custody for three weeks. Khan set bail at roughly $10,500. It was unclear when she would be released.

Last week, police detained a Muslim cleric, Khalid Jadoon, on suspicion that he planted evidence against the girl. The arrest was made after members of his mosque alerted authorities.

Under Pakistan's blasphemy law, anyone who speaks ill of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad commits a crime and faces the death penalty. A medical report says the girl is 14 years old and mentally impaired.

New York-based Human Rights Watch welcomed the judge's decision on Friday and said the girl should have never been held in the first place.

HRW Pakistan Director Ali Dayan Hasan said “all charges against her should be dropped and Pakistan's criminal justice system should instead concentrate on holding her accuser accountable for inciting violence against the child and members of the local Christian community.” He urged the government to reexamine the country's blasphemy law.

Rights groups say the law has been used to harass religious minorities and settle personal scores.

Many Christians living in Masih's neighborhood left the area fearing reprisals from Muslims.

Last year two prominent Pakistani politicians were killed for criticizing the country's blasphemy law.

Christians are the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Pakistan, making up about five percent of the population.