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No proof of blasphemy in the Rimsha Masih case: The Church of England Newspaper, September 30, 2012 p 5. October 5, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan.
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A police investigator has testified that there is no evidence that Rimsha Masih, the 11-year old Christian girl with Downs Syndrome, violated Pakistan’s blasphemy code.

On 16 August Rimsha was taken into custody after she was accused of burning pages of the Koran.  The leader of mosque in Mehrabadi, a mixed Muslim-Christian neighborhood outside Islamabad, filed a complaint with the police alleging the young girl had committed blasphemy – a crime punishable by death under the Pakistani penal code.

An anti-Christian pogrom ensued in Mehrabadi and the Pakistani press reported that approximately 1000 Christian families fled the neighborhood in fear for their lives. Police held Rimsha and her mother in custody in Rawalpindi from 16 Aug to 7 Sept for their own protection after the riots, interior minister Rehman Malik told the senate last week, and released them after a Christian NGO made bail for the girl.

In the 22 Sept court hearing in Islamabad, police official Munir Hussain Jaffri said there was no evidence that Rimsha had burned a copy of a Koran. He also testified that the Muslim cleric who had brought the charges against the girl had been accused by three witnesses of fabricating the evidence against Rimsha.

However, Rao Abdul Raheem, the lawyer representing Muslim cleric Khalid Jadoon Chisthi who is now facing charges of perverting the course of justice warned the court that his client enjoyed wide popular support.  Mr. Raheem told the court that just as the accused killer of Punjab’s Governor Salman Taseer, Mumtaz Qadris, was a hero to some for his actions – so too was his client.

The judge hearing the case ordered an adjournment until 24 Sept.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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Rimsha bailed on blasphemy charges: The Church of England Newspaper, September 16, 2012 p 5. September 20, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan.
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Rimsha Masih, the mentally disabled Christian girl jailed for blasphemy in Islamabad has been released from prison on bail.

She was freed on 7 September 2012 followed a statement made by Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik to the senate that his investigation revealed the girl had not left her home on the day she was alleged to have burned pages from a Koran.  He further stated that a medical examination found the girl to have a mental age of 7, though she was approximately 14 years of age.

The judge hearing the case released Rimsha on bail after her attorneys argued that the arrest of her accuser, a Muslim cleric, on charges of fabricating the evidence against her raised reasonable doubts about her guilt.

On 16 August Rimsha was taken into custody after she was accused of burning pages of the Koran.  The leader of mosque in Mehrabadi, a mixed Muslim-Christian neighborhood outside Islamabad, filed a complaint with the police alleging the young girl had committed blasphemy – a crime punishable by death under the Pakistani penal code.

An anti-Christian pogrom ensued in Mehrabadi and the Pakistani press reported that approximately 1000 Christian families fled the neighborhood in fear for their lives.  Rimsha and her mother were had been kept in custody since 16 Aug for their own protection, the interior minister told the senate.

The arrest of Rimsha Masih has focused international attention upon Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which critics charge is used to intimidate Christians for personal and business reasons.  It has also sparked a backlash within the majority Muslim community.  A prominent conservative cleric, Tahir Ashrafi, defended Rimsha against the charge of blasphemy, describing her to reporters as the “daughter of the nation.”

After a minority rights group gave a £6500 bond to the court, Rimsha was released from custody. She is being kept in seclusion, a spokesman for the minorities group said, pending the outcome of her case.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Mullah accused of fabricating evidence in Pakistan child blasphemy case: The Church of England Newspaper, September 9, 2012 p 7 September 12, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Islam, Persecution.
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One of the accusers of the 11-year old Christian girl imprisoned in Pakistan and awaiting trial on for blasphemy has been arrested by Islamabad police for fabricating evidence and filing false charges.

On 31 August 2012, a witness came forward to inform the police that a local mullah, Khalid Jadoon Chisthi, had concocted the accusations against Rimsha Masih, and had conspired to foment anti-Christian hatred.

The Express Tribune reported that Hafiz Zubair informed police that he had witnessed Mr. Chishti fabricate the evidence and had heard him describe his plan to frame the Christian girl.  “We tried to stop him but he said this would strengthen the blasphemy case against Rimsha,” said Zubair in his statement to the police.

A police spokesman told the Express Tribune Chishti “put pages into the ashes, showed them to the people of the area, gathered them to attack the girl’s house and detained her before taking her to the police station. He made the boy Hammad become a complainant in the case and urged the police to press blasphemy charges against the 11-year-old girl,” said the police officer.

Rimsha, whose baptismal certificate indicates she is 11 years of age, although a police medical examination places her age at 13, has Downs Syndrome and is illiterate.  She was arrested on 16 August after she was accused by Chishti and others of burning a Koran.  The girl and her mother remain in protective police custody and a hearing is scheduled on her case this week.

The outcry over the arrest of Rimsha led to an anti-Christian pogrom, allegedly fomented by Chishti, that forced 900 families from their homes – emptying the Islamabad neighborhood of Christians who feared for their lives.

If convicted of falsifying evidence in a capital case, Chishti could face life imprisonment.  If charged with blasphemy for burning the pages containing Koranic verses, he could be executed.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

11 year old girl with Downs Syndrome jailed for Blasphemy: The Church of England Newspaper, August 26, 2012 p 6. August 28, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Persecution.
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The Government of Pakistan has confirmed that an 11 year old Christian girl with Downs Syndrome has been arrested for blasphemy and is being held by police for questioning – and for protection from a mob that is seeking her death.

A spokesperson for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, said the president has taken “serious note” of the arrest of Rimsha Masih and has directed the Interior Ministry to look into the matter.

The sequence of events that led to the arrest of Rimsha (also spelled Rifta) Masih remains unclear. However the Express Tribune reported that officials at the Ramna Police Station outside Islamabad had confirmed the girl had been accused of burning a Muslim text – variously described as 10 pages from the Koran or portions of the Noorani Qaida – a children’s Koran reader. The girl has since been taken into custody, the police have confirmed.

The police said after the complaint was filed on 16 August the girl and her mother were assaulted by a mob.  The website “Christians in Pakistan” which first reported the arrest, stated the girl who lived in the Mehrabadi neighborhood of the capital had Downs Syndrome – a fact subsequently confirmed by the police after a medical examination.

Following her arrest, local mullah’s called for all Christians to leave the village.  The Pakistan Christian Post reports that approximately 1000 Christian families have fled the Islamabad slum out of fear of reprisals from Muslim extremists.

A police investigation into the incident is underway, however, on local official said that if the girl had not been taken into custody, she might have been harmed by the mob.  Under Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws, those found guilty of insulting Mohammad or the Koran can be sentenced to death.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.