- (Photo: Reuters/Stringer)
Pakistani officials have reported that a Christian girl accused of blasphemy has been released from jail via a military helicopter to a secret location, after she was granted bail.
Rimsha Masih, believed to be mentally disabled 14 year old, was ferried from Rawalpindi jail with a heavily-armed police escort. She had her face covered with a green scarf as she walked to the helicopter.
It is not clear where she was taken. According to AFP, Pakistan's minister for national harmony has said she was flown to a safe place where she was reunited with her family. Amnesty International, however, has said she is still in serious danger despite her recent release as blasphemy accusations in the country often result in vigilante justice. Only in July a Pakistani man, who had been accused of blasphemy, was dragged from a police station in the center of the country, beaten to death and his body set on fire, according to The Associated Press.
Masih was arrested on Aug. 16 and spent around three weeks in jail near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, after neighbors accused her of burning pages from the Quran.
Last week the police arrested a Muslim cleric accused of tampering with evidence in an effort to frame Masih in the "blasphemy" case. Now, the cleric himself could face blasphemy charges for tearing pages of the Quran. It is alleged that he tore the pages out of the book to plant as evidence against the little Christian girl, the police have informed. Police moved in to arrest the cleric after a follower from his mosque accused him of planting torn out pages of a Quran in the girl's bag to make it seem as if she had burned them. It has been alleged that he did so with the aim of forcing Christians out of the neighborhood. He has denied the allegation.
Last Friday a judge granted her bail at 1 million rupees, which equates to about US $10,500.
Amnesty International has highlighted the case as evidence of how urgently Pakistan needs to reform its blasphemy laws, claiming that it is too easily open to abuse in its current form and at present is often used to settle personal vendettas.
According to Center for Research and Security Studies, there have been almost 250 blasphemy cases in Pakistan since 1987.
Ali Dayan Hasan, the head of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, has called for all charges against the girl to be dropped. He said, "Human Rights Watch hopes that the blatant abuse that has come to light in this case will lead to a considered re-examination of the law, and all stakeholders in Pakistan will actively seek to end frequent abuses perpetrated under cover of blasphemy allegations."