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Judge in Pakistan grants bail to Christian girl accused of blasphemy

By Reza Sayah and Nasir Habib, CNN
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Fri September 7, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The girl has been in jail since last month after she was accused by a neighbor
  • The neighbor says she burned pages of the Quran, the Muslim holy book
  • A religious minorities alliance will pay her $10,000 bail fee
  • A Muslim cleric has been accused of planting evidence against her

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- A Pakistani judge on Friday granted bail to Rimsha, a 14-year-old Christian girl detained over accusations she burned pages of the Quran in a case that has heightened religious tensions in the volatile country.

The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, which represents religious minorities in the country, will pay the sum of roughly $10,000 to secure Rimsha's release from jail, said Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, one of her lawyers and a leading member of the alliance.

Judge Muhammad Azam Khan said written details of his decision on the bail application would be released Saturday. It was not immediately clear when Rimsha would be released.

The judge's decision came after a lengthy argument Friday between Rimsha's lawyer speaking in court, Pervez Khan, and lawyers representing the accuser.

Khan argued Rimsha should be granted bail because she was essentially an innocent girl with a lower than average IQ who was framed by a local cleric who planted evidence against her.

Girl arrested on blasphemy charges
Locals react to girl's blasphemy arrest
Cleric accuser arrest in blasphemy case

The accuser's lawyer argued Rimsha committed blasphemy and should be punished no matter how old she is.

Rimsha's family has left their home on the outskirts of Islamabad as a result of the tensions caused by the accusations against her.

Police: Muslim cleric framed girl in Pakistan blasphemy case

The case took a dramatic twist over the weekend when the police said a Muslim cleric had planted evidence in order to link her to the blasphemy allegations.
The imam, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, will himself face blasphemy charges for tearing pages out of a Quran to use as evidence against the girl, police said.

Authorities arrested Rimsha last month after a neighbor accused her of burning pages containing texts from the Muslim holy book.

Rimsha had two shopping bags with her: one containing ashes and the other, the partially burned pages, police said. She had gathered the paper as fuel for cooking, authorities said.

Even though Rimsha's lawyer said no one actually saw the girl burning the papers, the neighbor went to Chishti -- the neighborhood cleric -- with the bags for safekeeping as evidence.

Chishti wasn't certain that simply burning pages with texts from the Quran would be enough to convict Rimsha on blasphemy charges, the police said.

So, the imam added two pages from the holy book itself to the bag to bolster the case, according to the police

Chishti was arrested on Saturday after three witnesses told a judge about the imam's actions. He was sent to jail for 14 days, accused of evidence tampering.

Chishti has denied the allegation, authorities said.

Opinion: Muslims in Pakistan, show compassion and justice

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