Pakistani Girl Accused of Blaspheming Islam Released from Jail

Posted September 8th, 2012 at 9:55 am (UTC-5)
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Pakistani officials say a mentally-challenged Christian girl accused of blaspheming Islam has been released from jail.

Rimsha Masih's release Saturday comes a day after a judge granted her bail, in a case that has drawn international outrage.

Rimsha, believed to be 14 years old, spent the last three weeks in jail near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, after neighbors accused her of burning pages from the Quran.

Witnesses say an armored vehicle brought her Saturday from the jail in the city of Rawalpindi to a waiting helicopter. It is unclear where she was taken, but Pakistan's minister for national harmony told the French news agency she was flown to a safe place where she was reunited with her family.

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

On Friday, Amnesty International said Rimsha is still in serious danger even after a judge ordered her freed.

The human rights group called the decision an encouraging step. But the group says the Pakistani government must urgently reform its blasphemy laws. It says current laws cannot be used to settle disputes or let private citizens take matters into their own hands.

Last week, police arrested a Muslim cleric after members of his mosque accused him of planting evidence against Rimsha. Other Muslim clerics demanded she be freed.

Many other Christians living in Rimsha's neighborhood fled the area fearing revenge from Muslims.

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