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Christian Pakistani Accused of Blasphemy Out on Bail


A Pakistani judge has freed on bail a young Christian girl accused of blasphemy. While lawyers declared the decision a victory for justice, Christians from her village are still too scared to go home.

Supporters of 14-year-old Rimsha Masih, believed to be mentally impaired, gathered outside the courtroom to wait for the news.

Masih has spent three weeks in jail. Her release, lawyer Raja Akram Amin said, showed the justice system in Pakistan worked.

“The investigating lawyer is also a Muslim, so he said she is a victim, so you can see the degree of fairness and transparency, we believe in the judicial system, our judicial system is very independent,” Amin said.

Masih was arrested after a mob gathered outside her house here, accusing her of burning pages of the Quran.

Terrified, her family and other Christian families have fled. Under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, defacing the Quran carries the death penalty.

Religious advocate Sajid Ishaq, a Christian, as well as Muslim clerics, led the call for Masih’s release. Ishaq says he hopes this interfaith cooperation will continue.

“I think we can prevent such cases in the future,” Ishaq said.

But others are not optimistic. Scared for their lives, Christians who left their village are hiding in this Islamabad slum.

Masih’s parents have reportedly taken refuge in the German embassy.

Mumtaz Masih, who is not related to Rimsha Masih, ran away with his family. He does not think young Rimsha is safe.

“She is not safe here. These people are going to kill her. They did not spare us, what are they going to do to her?,” Masih said.

He doesn’t feel safe either.

“We are also afraid and we don’t want to go back to our neighborhood,” Masih said.

Those accused of blasphemy have been killed by mobs before. Christians are only about 5 percent of the population in Pakistan, and tend to be among the poorest.
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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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