Imam in girl’s blasphemy case released Pakistan police open ‘case’ against Christian teenage boy

ISLAMABAD, Oct 13, (Agencies): A Pakistani cleric who accused a young Christian girl of blasphemy and had been arrested for framing evidence was released on Friday, a day after he was granted bail by a court, his lawyer said.
The girl Rimsha Masih spent three weeks in an adult jail after she was arrested on Aug 16 for allegedly burning pages from the Quran, in a case that prompted worldwide condemnation.
She and her family remain in hiding for safety after Rimsha was released on bail and her case was sent to a juvenile court last month, following a medical report that said she was 14.
Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, the imam of the mosque in Rimsha’s area, who first gave police the burned papers as evidence against her, was detained on Sept 1 for desecrating the Quran himself and tampering with evidence.
“My client has been released and he came out of Adiyala jail today,” his lawyer Wajid Ali Gilani told AFP.
Chishti was granted bail on Thursday on one surety and a bond of 200,000 rupees (about $2,000) by the court in Islamabad, he said.
The cleric was arrested after his deputy Maulvi Zubair and two others told a magistrate Chishti added pages from the Quran to the burnt pages brought to him by a witness, investigators have said.
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.
On Aug 24 Chishti told AFP he thought Rimsha burned the pages deliberately as part of a Christian “conspiracy” to insult Muslims, and said action should have been taken sooner to stop what he called their “anti-Islam activities” in impoverished Mehrabad neighbourhood of Islamabad.
Meanwhile, Pakistani police have opened a blasphemy case against a teenage Christian boy accused of sending derogatory text messages about Islam’s prophet to neighbors in the southern city of Karachi, an official said Friday.
The 17-year-old is in hiding along with family members after neighbors angrily came to his house Wednesday to inquire about the text messages, said senior police officer Shahid Hayat.
The mob ransacked the family’s home and then lodged a formal complaint against the boy with police, Hayat said.
Under Pakistani law, opening a case does not mean that the person is charged with a crime but that police are investigating. However, people convicted of maligning the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) can be sentenced to death.
According to Hayat, the boy told neighbors he forwarded the messages without reading them. Although authorities have released the boy’s name, the Associated Press does not generally identify juveniles under 18 who are accused of crimes.
Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws, sections of which carry the death penalty or life imprisonment, have drawn renewed international scrutiny this year after a young Christian girl in Islamabad was alleged to have desecrated the Muslim holy book, the Quran.
Human rights activists say the blasphemy laws are too broad and vague, and are often used by people who are trying to settle scores with rivals or target religious minorities, who make up 5 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people.
Although many Muslims are accused of insulting Muhammad or other acts deemed blasphemous, minorities are disproportionately represented among the defendants, rights groups say.
However, the laws retain broad support in Pakistan, where Islamic conservatism is on the rise alongside extremism and many Muslims are highly sensitive about their faith.

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