Bail for Pakistani girl accused of blasphemy offers hope for case's dismissal

But mentally disabled teenager who was held in solitary cell may have to flee Pakistan's hardliners

Islamabad

A mentally disabled Christian girl in Pakistan who was jailed on blasphemy charges was finally granted bail by a court yesterday, but her life is now under severe threat from militants.

The agony of solitary confinement in an adult, maximum-security prison should end this morning for Rimsha Masih, after more than three weeks. But she still faces the prospect of a full trial on the blasphemy allegations.

Her lawyer, Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, told The Independent that they would now try to head off a trial by having the case dismissed at the Islamabad High Court, with their petition likely to be lodged within days. "There is no direct evidence against Rimsha. This is a case for quashment," said Mr Chaudhry.

The Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, announced in parliament that Rimsha would be taken into protective custody "in case of a violent reaction". Dozens of people charged with blasphemy have been murdered over the years before conviction or after the court has found them innocent.

Last year, two senior members of the government were gunned down by extremists in separate attacks, for merely criticising the workings of the blasphemy law, including the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, who was murdered by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri.

Rimsha's parents have already been in hiding since her arrest on 16 August, from the slum on the outskirts of Islamabad where they had lived in a one-room house. She was accused, by a neighbour and the imam of the local mosque, of having burnt pages of the Koran and another religious text in a plastic bag that she was carrying.

A district court in Islamabad, which had previously twice postponed a decision on Rimsha's bail, granted her release, on a hefty Rs1m (£6,500) surety bond. The All Pakistan Minorities Association posted the bail. It is likely that ultimately Rimsha and her family will have to flee abroad. Bail being given on blasphemy charges is unknown but was possible in this case after the district court's judge accepted that she is a juvenile under law, despite objections from the aggressive lawyer, Rao Abdur Raheem, representing Rimsha's accuser. Mr Raheem has a poster of the convicted killer Mumtaz Qadri on the wall above his desk.

Mr Malik bolstered her defence when he told parliament that though Rimsha is 14 years old, "her mental age is seven". The girl's parents, who maintain that she is 11 years old, say has Down's syndrome. Mr Malik, who this week ordered a further investigation, said: "The material in the bag was burnt wood, not burnt papers."

Rimsha's case is tragic but, for the first time, there has been government and public support for someone accused under the country's draconian blasphemy laws, which only protect Islam. A group of Islamic clerics, led by Tahir Ashrafi, a mullah associated with hardliners, leapt to Rimsha's defence, calling her a "daughter of the nation" and offering to protect her if the government couldn't.

The state also fought back in Rimsha's case. A week ago, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, the imam of her neighbourhood mosque, was himself arrested and charged with blasphemy, for allegedly tearing up pages from the Koran and putting them in the bag that was handed over to police. He had already admitted in a television interview that he had sought to drive out the Christians from the mixed area, as music from the church disturbed prayers at the mosque. Mr Raheem, the lawyer for the other accuser, Malik Amad, said: "There are so many hurdles being created by the government's investigators in favour of Rimsha. But everyone knows that she is guilty."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable