Pakistani Girl Arrested for Blasphemy Released on Bail

Church Leaders Hope Other Judges Will Find Similar Courage

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LAHORE, Pakistan, SEPT. 10, 2012 ( Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl arrested in mid-August in Pakistan after being accused of burning the Quran, has been released on bail.

The release of the girl, who is 14 years old, came after police arrested an imam, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, who is accused of planting the burned pages of the Quran in her bag.

Rimsha was released from jail in Rawalpindi, near the capital, Islamabad, and taken by helicopter to an undisclosed place. Threats had been made against the family following the girl’s arrest.

“The court’s decision to release Rimsha on bail gives courage to other judges to act in a similar way … it gives them courage to settle these kinds of matters in a more appropriate way,” Bishop Sebastian Shaw, Apostolic Administrator of Lahore Archdiocese, told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“Many Muslims were thinking in a positive, sympathetic way but weren’t able to say as much openly,” Bishop Shaw added. “With this precedent, they may be encouraged to say what they want.”

Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi told ACN that abuse of the blasphemy law was problematic and that there were previous incidents of allegations being made using falsified evidence.

According to Reuters since 1987, there have been almost 250 blasphemy cases. This number is based on information from the Pakistani Center for Research and Security Studies. According to the center 52 people had been killed after being accused of blasphemy since 1990.

Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, was assassinated last year by his own security guard because of his opposition to the blasphemy law, while Pakistan’s only Christian cabinet member, Shahbaz Bhatti, was shot and killed by the Taliban for urging reform of the law.

«I am very happy for my daughter’s liberation,» said Misrek Masih, Rimsha’s father, in a report published by AsiaNews. «I am grateful from the bottom of my heart» for what the Catholic activists from the APMA and Minister Paul Bhatti did, «working tirelessly for her release.»

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