LAHORE, Pakistan, NOV. 20, 2012 (Zenit.org).- A 14-year-old Pakistani girl accused of blasphemy has been acquitted in a breakthrough that a Lahore bishop welcomed as “real justice.”
Rimsha Masih, said to have Down Syndrome, was accused in August of burning pages of the Noorani Qaida, an Islamic booklet used by people learning basic Arabic and the Qur’an.
The girl’s birthdate is uncertain and a medical board reported that she has a physical age of about 14, but that her learning difficulties mean that her mental age is well below that.
Speaking from Pakistan, Bishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore Archdiocese told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that the decision by the court in Islamabad was a breakthrough for justice, not just for Christians but for the whole country.
Bishop Shaw, who heads Pakistan’s largest diocese, said: “It is very, very good news for us that that this girl, a minor, got real justice.
“It is also good for Pakistan – the whole of Pakistan – as it shows that there is justice, that where there are good people then justice can prevail.”
All charges against Rimsha were dismissed by chief justice Iqbal Hameed-ur Rehman today.
There has been no response from Rimsha or her family, who have been in hiding since the girl was granted bail Sept. 7.
Imam Khalid Jadoon now faces a charge of making a false accusation, after witnesses came forward claiming that he planted the evidence.
Intentional desecration of Qur’anic texts carries a sentence of life imprisonment according to Section 295B of the Pakistan Penal Code – which are part of the country’s notorious blasphemy laws. The laws have been criticized internationally because it is widely believed that they are often used as a way to take revenge; false accusations are leveled by those with personal vendettas.