Rimsha Masih blasphemy case

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Rimsha Masih (Urdu: رمشا مسیح ‎ — some early reports used the first name "Rifta" or "Riftah") is a Pakistani girl [1] from Mehrabadi, Islamabad,[2] who was arrested by Pakistani police in August 2012 on blasphemy charges for allegedly desecrating pages of the Quran (or a book containing verses from the Quran) by burning[3][4] -- a crime punishable by death under Pakistan's blasphemy law.[5][6] She is a member of Pakistan's Christian minority.[5]

Two weeks after her arrest, the local imam who had reported her to police was arrested on suspicion of planting pages of religious texts in Rimsha's bag.[7][8][9] Rimsha was eventually acquitted of all charges.[10] In mid 2013 after months of hiding, Rimsha and her family were able to escape to Canada.[11]

Arrest[edit]

Rimsha Masih was arrested on August 16, 2012 for allegedly burning pages from the Quran. While carrying trash in a plastic bag in the neighborhood where she lived she was told by a Muslim boy (Hammad) to let him inspect the contents of her bag.[12] The boy then took the bag to the imam of a local mosque,[12] Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti who accusing Masih of desecrating the Quran, gave police burned papers from the trash as evidence against her.[13] On August 24 Chishti told AFP news service that he thought Rimsha had burned the pages deliberately as part of a Christian “conspiracy” to insult Muslims, and that action should have been taken sooner to stop what he called their “anti-Islam activities” in the area.[13] Outrage by local Muslims forced 300 local Christian families to leave their homes and to attempt to "find shelter in one of the Islamabad forests".[12]

Health condition[edit]

There are conflicting reports as to whether she has a mental health condition, with some sources claiming that she has Down Syndrome, and her family has been reported to have told her lawyer that she suffers from mental illness.[3][14][15] In the initial days after her arrest, human-rights workers "pinned their hopes" on Rimsha's mental condition, and her case being dismissed for her being mentally disabled.[12] There are also conflicting reports about her age: although most sources describe her as 11 years old, she has also been claimed to be aged 14 or 16.[15] Following a medical examination,[14] a medical report estimated her age as being 14, and therefore a minor under Pakistani law, and stated that she had mental capacity lower than would be expected for someone of that age. This report was questioned by her accuser's lawyer, who accused the report of "favouring" her,[16] and a prosecutor claimed that Rimsha is actually 21 years old. [1] Some reports state that she is illiterate, and may have unknowingly picked the pages of the book up from a waste dump.[4][17]

Domestic and international reaction[edit]

Her arrest caused widespread condemnation, both within Pakistan and internationally,[6] and has been followed by a rise of inter-communal tension within Pakistan.[3] The President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, has ordered an investigation into the arrest.[3]

France "urged the Pakistani authorities to release this young girl" and has reaffirmed that "the very existence of the crime of blasphemy infringes upon fundamental freedoms, namely the freedom of religion or belief, as well as the freedom of expression. It urges Pakistan to comply with its international commitments in this area, notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child."[18]

Members of the All Pakistan Ulema Council joined with the Pakistan Interfaith League in protest against the accusations.[19] Her father made a personal appeal to President Zardari on her behalf.[20] The lawyer representing her accuser claimed the government was interfering on her behalf and claimed, “If the court is not allowed to do its work, because the state is helping the accused, then the public has no other option except to take the law into their own hands.".[2]

The civic organization Avaaz launched a campaign to release Rimsha. As of September 2012, the campaign petition had gathered over one million signatures.[21]

New evidence and release on bail[edit]

On September 2, it was reported that a local imam, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, had been arrested for desecrating the Quran himself and tampering with evidence.[13] Police suspected he planting pages of religious texts in Rimsha's bag,[7][8][9][22][23]

The next day, the chairman of the All Pakistan Ulema Council, Hafiz Mohammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi made a statement supporting her, describing her as a "daughter of the nation".[24]

On September 7, Rimsha Masih was released on bail,[25] on a surety of 1,000,000 Pakistani rupees (US$10,570 on that date).[26] Paul Bhatti, the Pakistani Minister for National Harmony, who had earlier stated his hopes that the case might help end the widespread abuse of the blasphemy laws,[27] expressed "joy and satisfaction" at the development.[28] After her release from jail, she was airlifted to an undisclosed location to rejoin her family.[29][30]

According to Agence France Presse quoting investigators, Chishti was arrested after Chishti's deputy Maulvi Zubair and two others told a magistrate that Chishti had added pages from the Quran to the burnt pages brought to him by a witness. Zubair and the two others, Mohammad Shahzad and Awais Ahmed, said they had urged Chishti not to interfere with the papers but he told them it was the only way to expel the Christians from the area.[13]

Acquittal and Emigration[edit]

On November 20, 2012, Rimsha was cleared of all charges by the Islamabad High Court.[10]

In June 2013, CBC News reported her and her family to be living at an undisclosed location in Canada,[31] where they were given permanent residency on "humanitarian and compassionate grounds". Despite the fact that the case against her was thrown out, people in Pakistan accused of blasphemy are often subject to vigilante justice.[11]

According to the Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, a Pakistani contact asked him in January 2013 whether the family could come to Canada. "I said absolutely, if they could get her out. So a number of people did some very dangerous, delicate work to extricate her and her family from Pakistan, and we provided the necessary visas."[11]

Aug 17, 2013 the lawyer of cleric Khalid Chishti reported that a district judge in Islamabad granted his motion to acquit his Chishti, ruling that the prosecution had not brought forward sufficient evidence to convict the cleric.[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Editorial (2012-09-25). "Rimsha’s plight". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 2012-09-25. 
  2. ^ a b Shah, Saeed (2012-08-30). "Pakistan blasphemy case: 'Muslims could take law into their own hands'". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Pakistani girl accused of Qur'an burning could face death penalty". The Guardian. 2012-08-22. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  4. ^ a b AFP (August 26, 2012). "Blasphemy suspect: Vatican prelate says Rimsha can’t read". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 2012-08-27. 
  5. ^ a b Katie Hunt and Nasir Habib (2012-08-22). "Girl held in Pakistan, accused of burning Quran pages". CNN. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  6. ^ a b Rick Dewsbery (20 August 2012). "'Down's syndrome girl', 11, faces death penalty for desecrating Koran in Pakistan". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2012-08-27. 
  7. ^ a b Jon Boone (2 September 2012). "Pakistani mullah 'planted charred texts' on girl accused of blasphemy". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  8. ^ a b Masroor Gilani (AFP) (2012-09-02). "Pakistan imam held in blasphemy girl case". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  9. ^ a b "Imam arrested over allegations he framed Christian girl". ITV News. 2012-09-02. Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  10. ^ a b Rimsha Masih vs. Station House Officer, Police Station Ramna, PLD 2013 Islamabad 1; "Pakistan Court Dismisses Blasphemy Case Against Christian Girl". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 20 Nov 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c "Rimsha Masih, Pakistani girl accused of blasphemy, finds refuge in Canada". The Guardian. Associated Press in Ottawa. 30 June 2013. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c d Hanif, Mohammed (5 September 2012). "How to commit blasphemy in Pakistan". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Imam in Rimsha Masih blasphemy case released". Dawn.com. AFP. Oct 12, 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  14. ^ a b "Pakistan blasphemy case girl examined by doctors". 2012-08-27. Retrieved 2012-08-27. 
  15. ^ a b Aisha Chowdhry (Reuters) (Aug 24, 2012). "Christian girl accused of blasphemy in Pakistan placed in solitary confinement, too frightened to speak". The National Post. Retrieved 2012-08-27. 
  16. ^ Reuters/AFP (August 30, 2012). "Rimsha being favoured: Accuser's lawyer". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  17. ^ Andrew Buncombe (20 August 2012). "Pakistan president demands investigation into arrest of disabled Christian girl accused of blasphemy after 'burning pages of the Koran'". The Independent. Retrieved 2012-08-27. 
  18. ^ "Pakistan – Arrest of a Pakistani girl on blasphemy charges and risk of death penalty". France Diplomatie. 2012-08-21. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  19. ^ Saeed Shah (2012-08-27). "Pakistani Muslim leaders support Christian girl accused of blasphemy". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  20. ^ Dean Nelson (2012-08-28). "Father of Pakistani Christian 'blasphemer’ girl appeals to President Asif Ali Zardari". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  21. ^ ""President Zardari: Save my daughter!"". Avaaz. 
  22. ^ "Pakistan 'Koran plot' imam remanded in blasphemy case". BBC News. 2 September 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  23. ^ Jon Boone (2012-09-02). "Pakistani mullah accused of trying to frame girl in blasphemy case". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  24. ^ Jon Boone (2012-09-03). "Christian girl hailed as 'daughter of nation' by senior Pakistani cleric". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-09-06. 
  25. ^ "Pakistan 'blasphemy girl' granted bail". Channel 4 News. 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  26. ^ Declan Walsh and Salman Masood (2012-09-07). "Girl Released in Pakistan Blasphemy Case". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-09-08. 
  27. ^ AFP (2012-09-05). "Rimsha Masih case: Bhatti hopes abuse of blasphemy law will end". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  28. ^ "Paul Bhatti: " joy and satisfaction" for Rimsha Masih’s release (on bail)". asianews.it. 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  29. ^ Mubashir Zaidi (2012-09-08). "Rimsha released from Adiala Jail, flown to unknown location". DAWN. Retrieved 2012-09-08. 
  30. ^ Kristin Deasy (2012-09-08). "Pakistan's 'blasphemy girl' Rimsha Masih released, helicoptered to family members". GlobalPost. Retrieved 2012-09-08. 
  31. ^ Lynch, Laura (29 June 2013). "Pakistani girl accused of blasphemy now living in Canada Rimsha Masih and family at undisclosed location in Toronto". CBC News. Retrieved 29 June 2013. 
  32. ^ "Rimsha case: Cleric acquitted for want of evidence". AP. Aug 17, 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2014.