November 20, 2012
Pakistan Court Dismisses Blasphemy Charges Against Christian Girl
A Pakistani court has dismissed charges against a Christian girl accused of blasphemy in a case that drew international outrage.
The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday threw out the case against Rimsha Masih, whom neighbors accused of burning pages from the Quran in August.
She was arrested and spent three weeks in jail before being released on bail in September.
The girl's defense attorney, Abdul Hameed, said the judge decided to drop the case Tuesday due to a lack of evidence. Hameed said the judge concluded that the charges "were based on heresy and incriminated material that was planted in the girl's possession."
Police have arrested a Muslim cleric on suspicion that he allegedly placed pages of the Quran in the girl's shopping bag.
The prosecution can appeal Tuesday's ruling to the Supreme Court.
Muslim-majority Pakistan has some of the world's toughest penalties against blasphemy. Anyone found guilty of insulting Islam and the Prophet Mohammad faces the death penalty.
Human rights activists say the blasphemy law in Pakistan is sometimes used to harass religious minorities.
Two prominent Pakistani politicians were killed in 2011 for speaking out against the country's blasphemy law.
There are varying reports of the girl's age, with some saying she is as young as 11 years old. Others quote police who say she is 16.
The girl and her family are said to be living in an undisclosed location in Pakistan since her release on bail.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.