Pakistani Judge Grants $10K Bail to Christian Girl Accused of Blasphemy

A Judge in Pakistan has agreed to set bail for a Christian girl said to be mentally ill who was accused of desecrating a Muslim religious text.

Judge Mohammed Azam Khan set bail at 1 million rupees, which equals U.S. $10,500. The girl's lower income family will have to receive financial support to raise the amount.

Tina Ramirez, director of International and Government Relations at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told The Christian Post that the girl should have already been let out sans bail.

"Blasphemy laws unjustly presume guilt. This girl should not have been let out on bail, but rather on the principle of justice that she be treated as innocent until proven guilty," said Ramirez.

"These laws are destroying the foundation of religious freedom for all envisioned by Pakistan's founder, Mohammad Ali Jinna, and unless they are repealed once and for all, they will forever overshadow the dignity Pakistanis deserve to live under."

Last month, Rifta Masih who is from a poor, largely Christian neighborhood of Islamabad, was accused of burning a sacred Islamic text, possibly a Qur'an. In response to the demands of a Muslim mob, the young girl was arrested by local officials on the charge of blasphemy.

The arrest prompted outrage from human rights groups in and out of Pakistan, with President Asif Ali Zardari promising an investigation of the matter.

Relatives and human rights workers have argued that she should be exempt from blasphemy laws, saying she is only 11 years old and has Down syndrome. A medical report said Rimsha was around 14 years old but had the mental capacities of someone younger.

Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Religion & Islamic Studies for Duke's Department of Religion, told The Christian Post in an earlier interview that such mistreatment was common for accusations of blasphemy.

"Scores of accused languish in jails for years until the charges are withdrawn or prosecutions fail. And, at least on one occasion a defense lawyer for a person accused of blasphemy was assassinated," said Moosa.

"The national and international media have repeatedly highlighted these events. Several moderate parliamentarians, governors and cabinet ministers have called for a review of the blasphemy laws."

Last week, a Muslim cleric from the Islamabad neighborhood was arrested by authorities under charges that he might have planted evidence to frame the girl.

Ironically the imam, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, may also face blasphemy charges since police say he likely ripped out pages from a Qur'an to plant at the girl's home.

Ramirez of The Becket Fund told CP that next week the United Nations Human Rights Council would hold a meeting regarding an international response to blasphemy laws.

"Secretary Clinton and the Council members should issue a resolution calling for the universal repeal of all blasphemy laws once and for all in the honor of all those little girls, moms, and heroes who have been condemned to death under them," said Ramirez.

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