Rimsha Masih Blasphemy Case: Pakistan Court Acquits Imam Chishti

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By Sunny Peter | August 20, 2013 1:29 PM EST

Imam Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti who was arrested for falsely implicating Rimsha Masih, a 14-year old mentally-challenged Christian girl of burning pages of the Quran in Aug 2012 has been acquitted by a trial court on Saturday for lack of evidence.

Witnesses Backtrack

During the trial, prosecution witnesses went back on their statements, blaming the police of coercion to testify against Chishti. Chishti's lawyer Advocate Syed Wajid Gilani called the verdict a 'victory of truth'.

The prosecution has alleged that Chishti desecrated the Quran to concoct evidence against Rimsha, a resident of a Christian slum in suburban Islamabad.

International Condemnation

Following the allegation, Rimsha, who is reportedly suffering from Down's syndrome, was arrested by the local police who registered a case against her. She was subsequently detained for three weeks in Rawalpindi's Adiala Jail, before being declared innocent by the Islamabad High Court.

The case invited widespread global condemnation of Pakistan's notorious blasphemy law.

Creating Vigilantes

The country's blasphemy law, a legacy of the former dictator General Zia ul-Haq, has led to vigilante acts by mobs on allegations of blasphemy, often as a means to settle personal scores.

Although the state has not executed anyone for blasphemy, the law has created a climate where mobs take the law into their hands. In a gruesome incident reported last July, a Muslim man suspected of blasphemy was pulled from a police station and killed by a mob, which then burned his body.

Several Cases

Following the arrest of Rimsha, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reported of least 16 people who are on death row for blasphemy and at least 20 others who are serving life sentences. The USCIRF noted that more cases are reportedly brought against members of the Muslim majority than adherents of any other faith group, although religious minorities like Christians, Hindus, and Ahmadis are accused at a rate disproportionate to their tiny share of the population. 

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