» 08/28/2012, 00.00
Blasphemy, Rimsha Masih, minor with mental problems. Bishop of Islamabad: a positive outcome
This was established by the medical committee; court hearing postponed to August 30. Christian activists call for the reform of the "black law". Muslim groups defend the girl and hope for her acquittal of all charges. Muslim leader: another "symbol", to be used to end the "injustice" and "climate of fear".
(AsiaNews) - A "positive development" in the case that has given some
hope, but the main goal remains "the end of the abuses committed in the
name of blasphemy laws" in Pakistan.
So says Msgr. Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawapindi, commenting to AsiaNews on the outcome of the Medical Commission
report in the case of Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl accused for having burned
pages bearing some inscriptions from the Koran. Meanwhile, human rights
activists and members of civil society have criticized the procedural system
used by the police, who charged the girl with breaking the law, under pressure
from Islamic extremist fringe. A mode of operation branded as the "law of
the jungle" by some Muslim leaders who have joined the call of Christians
and the international community for her release.
The hearing to
decide on the release of Rimsha Masih, a mentally disabled Christian indicted
for blasphemy (see AsiaNews 19/08/2012 An
11-year-old disabled Christian girl arrested for blasphemy, 300 families flee), scheduled for today has been postponed
to August 30 , due to technical issues, such as the submission of the defense
medical report to judges. The girl stopped in a slum in Islamabad suffers from a mental disorder and
has a brother and a sister older. The parents and the rest of the family are
still alive, but they are being held in a secret location in fear of
The team of experts, appointed by the Islamabad
court, visited the child to assess her age and mental health. The first results
made public reveal that Rimsha Masih is a minor, aged "between 13 to 14
years." With regard to her health, the doctors determined that her mental
age does not match her chronological age, but it is not clear "whether she
can be considered disabled" or psychophysically retarded. However, these
are the two key aspects for her release and the cancellation of pending
charges, under which she faces up to life in prison. It is likely that her
lawyer will now appeal for her release, given that because of her age and
mental condition she can no longer be held responsible - even if she had torn
or burned passages of the holy book - under civil or criminal law.
For the bishop
of Islamabad it
is a "positive development" that will lead to the transfer of the
case to a juvenile court. "We pray for her release," adds Msgr. Rufin
Anthony, who invites Christian MPs to "take steps" to "stop the
abuses" committed in the name of the blasphemy laws. "Last Sunday we prayed
a special prayer for her - said the prelate, turning his thoughts to Rimsha -
and it's time to stick together and fight for the cause." An appeal shared
by Haroon Barket, who denounced "violations" in the opening of the
police investigation, under pressure from extremist elements. "In Pakistan,
being accused of blasphemy - he said - is equivalent to the sentence. We demand
the immediate release of Rimsha Masih and a reform of the blasphemy laws."
Pakistani Islamic movements and religious leaders ì - including the All
Pakistan Ulema Council (Apuc) and the Pakistan Interfaith League - support the
cause of the young Christian girl appealing for her release and acquittal of
all charges. On the other hand, they want those who slandered the girl indicted
and brought before justice.
Apuc Chairman Tahir Ashrafi, together with representatives of the Defense
Council of Pakistan (DCP), strongly condemn crowd pressure on the police to
open an investigation (see AsiaNews 24/08/2012 Pakistani
Muslims: Disabled 11 yr-old Christian should be punished). He adds that these indiscriminate
accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan
are the logic of the "law of the jungle", where the strongest
implement their own justice against the weaker. "The story of Rimsha is
emblematic for Muslims in Pakistan
- said Ashrafi - for minorities and the government. We do not want any more
cases of injustice. And we will work to put an end to this climate of
"We are optimistic," says Paul Bhatti as Rimsha Masih's bail hearing postponed to Friday
Today's hearing was cancelled because of a lawyers' strike in Punjab. Family problems with the presiding judge lead to two more days of postponement. Procedures are painful but we "are certain of her release." Bhatti praises the arrest of the imam who made the accusations against the girl. His "arrest will be [a] deterrent," Pakistan Human Rights Watch said.
Punjab: 22-year-old mentally disturbed Christian man dies in prison
For police, he died from a sudden illness. Priests and activists call for justice and an investigation. Like Rimsha Masih, the victim suffered from mental illness and was thrown in jail on the basis of unsubstantiated charges. After a week since he was taken into custody, police had not yet started the investigation.
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"I am very happy for my daughter's liberation," Rimsha Masih's father tells AsiaNews
In an interview with the family of the girl accused of blasphemy, who was released today on bail, Misrek Masih said, "my world collapsed. I was scared." He thanks APMA activists for their work. Faith in Jesus helped him find hope. Paul Bhatti thanks his brother Shabbaz for showing "me the path to follow."
Pakistan, Rimsha Masih bail hearing adjourned
The Islamabad court will decide on bail for disabled Christian girl accused of blasphemy on September 3. The National Commission for Justice and Peace reopens the debate on education in Pakistan and denounces: in Punjab and Sindh 2012-2013, textbooks filled with hatred and false history against Hindus, Christians and people of India.
Pakistani Christians happy about Rimsha Masih verdict, Islamists talk about "manipulation"
For the bishop of Islamabad, the ruling is a "great development." Now a law to end blasphemy abuses is needed. A Lahore priest sees the decision as a legal milestone. Islamists however are angered, blaming the government for putting pressures on the court.
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