01/16/2013, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Supreme Court upholds Rinsha Masih's innocence, Paul Batthi satisfied

Pakistan's highest court rejects prosecutors' appeal. For the Christian girl's lawyers, the verdict "sends out a positive image of Pakistan". Paul Bhatti tells AsiaNews that they did not flee but placed their faith in the justice system.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Pakistan's Supreme Court dismissed the appeal filed against Rimsha Masih, the 14-year-old Christian girl accused of committing blasphemy. The verdict was announced yesterday during the first hearing, further evidence that the judges are convinced of the girl's innocence. The mentally disabled girl was arrested in August 2012 on the basis of the 'black law'. She was later released on bail and eventually acquitted during her trial.

Reached by phone, Federal Minister Paul Bhatti, currently on a speaking tour of the United States, told AsiaNews that he was satisfied by the decision, which confirms that "Rimsha Masih is innocent".

A special advisor to the prime minister on national harmony, Bhatti said that Pakistani Christians are also very satisfied by the decision because "justice was done," showing once more in a courtroom that "Rimsha Masih is innocent".

Although this period was "stressful and tense, in the end justice prevailed and we got a positive verdict," the Catholic minister said. Rather than spirit away the girl and her family, "we went through the trial and are now satisfied," he added.

The case reached the Supreme Court when Malik Ummad, Rimsha's accuser, sought to re-open Rimsha's case through his lawyers who filed an appeal against the lower court's acquittal.

He had claimed of seeing the girl burn pages of the Qur'an and warned cleric Khalid Jadoon Chishti who filed a report with police. Prosecutors had tried to reopen the case to get the Christian girl convicted but failed. Now her accuser is on trial for blasphemy and slander.

The bench that made the final decision included the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Honourable Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary, and Justices Sh. Azmat Saeed and Gulzar Ahmad.

It took them a single hearing to dismiss the case against the girl, who was represented by Abdul Hameed Rana, assisted by Akmal Bhatti and Tahir Naveed Chaudhary.

The verdict "sends out a positive image of Pakistan in the international community that there is justice for all," said Tahir Naveed Chaudhry.

After her arrest in August on blasphemy charges for allegedly desecrating the Qur'an, a judge in Islamabad ordered the girl released on bail on 7 September. However, the accusations were however false, created by cleric Khalid Jadoon Chishti who sought to stir hatred towards Christians in order to seize their assets.

Two months later, on 20 November, the Islamabad High Court acquitted the 14-year-old Catholic girl for not committing the offence.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with AsiaNews on Christmas Eve, the girl, who is in a safe place, launched an appeal with the help of Catholic activists from the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) on behalf of Asia Bibi and other Christian victims of blasphemy. (DS)

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