Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl who was arrested for blasphemy in mid-August and released on bail three weeks later, is scheduled to appear in a juvenile court in Islamabad, Pakistan tomorrow. Even if Rimsha is acquitted, however, “she will still face the threat of death,” FrontPageMag reports. According to Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistan Director of Human Rights Watch, 52 people have been murdered by mobs while awaiting their court date in the past 25 years. “Hundreds of religious clerics throughout Pakistan are demanding a guilty verdict and calling for Rimsha’s death,”
FrontPageMag continues. One thing is certain – even if Rimsha is acquitted, she will never again be safe in her homeland.
By Deborah Weiss
10/15/2012 Pakistan (FrontPageMag.com)- The penalties for committing the crime of blasphemy in Pakistan are cruel, if not unusual. But even if little Rimsha is acquitted of the charges, she still faces the possibility of death.
Rimsha Masih is a 14-year-old Christian girl with mental disabilities. She resides in the town of Mehrabad, a poverty-stricken slum on the outskirts of Islamabad.
This summer, one of Rimsha’s neighbors claimed he saw her burn the pages of a holy book that contained Koranic verses. Such conduct constitutes “blasphemy” in violation of Pakistan’s penal code. The rumor spread like wildfire and local clerics whipped up religious sentiment, riling up the masses.
Subsequently, on August 16, 2012, Rimsha was playing in an area close to her home when she was attacked by a vicious mob of religious fanatics, intent on killing her. She and her mother were severely beaten.
A call to the local police station prompted Rimsha’s arrest. She and her mother were carted off to jail, where Rimsha sat traumatized in a high security prison for three weeks, waiting for her bail hearing.
During that time, the Ramna Police Department conducted an investigation of Rimsha’s case. It discovered that Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti had framed Rimsha as part of a larger scheme to force Christians in the area to flee their homes permanently. Several witnesses stated that the Imam held extreme animosity toward “infidel Christians” and knew that blasphemy charges against Rimsha would force a mass exodus of local Christians from their homes. Indeed it did. Outraged Muslims sought to collectively punish Rimsha’s entire village, which consisted of approximately 800 Christians, by threatening their lives and property. Hundreds fled due to fear and intimidation.
At Rimsha’s bail hearing, the police contended that there was no factual evidence to support the claim that Rimsha had committed blasphemy, but instead she had been framed by the Imam. Rimsha was a street sweeper, a job often performed by poor Christians for meager pay. It seems that she had swept up some pages from the Noorani Qaida — a primer used to teach children the Islamic Holy Scriptures — and then placed them in her plastic bag to throw out. At least three witnesses testified that Imam Chishti said he was unsure if this was sufficient to uphold a blasphemy charge, so he personally ripped out pages from the Koran, burned them himself and then planted them in Rimsha’s bag.
Based on the information provided by the police report, in addition to witness testimony, the judge granted Rimsha bail on September 8, 2012. She and her mother were airlifted from the jailhouse to an undisclosed location where they were placed in hiding for their own protection. They will remain there until the next hearing date, which is scheduled for October 17, 2012. At that time, the court will consider the defense attorney’s petition to dismiss Rimsha’s case due to lack of evidence.
Subsequently, the Imam was arrested for framing Rimsha. It is unprecedented that anyone in Pakistan has ever been held to account for making false blasphemy charges. Rimsha’s case has drawn international attention due to her age and mental incapacity. It is likely that the arrest was prompted by outrage abroad, pressuring the Pakistani government to let Rimsha go free. It remains to be seen whether the Imam will be charged with his crimes (witness tampering and possibly additional charges of blasphemy), or whether his arrest was a show, staged for the benefit of the international audience and the human rights watch dogs who have been monitoring Rimsha’s case.