10/01/2012, 00.00
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Rimsha Masih trial postponed until 17 October, the three witnesses against imam retract

The judge postpones hearing because of prosecution lawyer's absence. Despite her innocence, the disabled Christian girl is still on trial for blasphemy. The witnesses who said the evidence against the girl had been tampered have now retracted their original statement. They claim they were tortured and pressured to testify against Khalid Jadoon Chishti.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The High Court in Islamabad has adjourned until 17 October the trial against Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl falsely charged with blasphemy. According to a medical report, the 14-year-old suffers from a mental handicap. Thanks to the work of lawyers, prosecutors and Pakistani government, she was released on 7 September on bail. However, the case has taken an unexpected turn. The three men who accuse Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti of burning pages of the Qur'an to frame Rimsha in order to expel the Christian community where she lived have now retracted, claiming they were subjected to police pressures and threats.

The legal case against the Christian girl is getting more complicated. She could still be dragged through the courts for a long time, despite appeals by Christian and civil society leaders to have the case against her dropped immediately because of her innocence.  

The trial was postponed until 17 October because a lawyer for the prosecution was out of town on other matters. The court accepted the request for postponement.

The three witnesses who testified against Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti have retracted. Initially, they had said that the latter had tried to frame Rimsha Masih in order to expel the Christian community where she lived, The Express News reported. Citing the three men, the paper said they made the false accusations under "pressure" from the police.

The three men who spoke out against the imam are Hafiz Zubair, a muezzin, and Hafiz Awais and Khurram Shahzad. Now all three claim they were tortured to give false testimony to frame Imam Jadoon.

Police recently filed a report on the Rimsha Masih case, saying there was no evidence or witness against her.

She was arrested on 16 August on the basis of the 'black law,' allegedly for burning pages of a textbook, Noorani Qaida, which contains passages from the Qur'an and is used to teach the basics of Arabic and the Muslim holy book.

In reality, Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti (who is currently in custody waiting for trial) is thought to have placed the burnt pages in the bin where the girl had thrown some garbage. His goal was to spark anti-Christian violence that would have forced Christians to abandon their homes and property.

Since Rimsha was released on 8 September, she and her family have lived in a secret location for fear of reprisal and personal revenge.

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See also
"We are optimistic," says Paul Bhatti as Rimsha Masih's bail hearing postponed to Friday
Life of 11-year-old Christian in danger even though he is not charged with anything
"I am very happy for my daughter's liberation," Rimsha Masih's father tells AsiaNews
Without evidence police arrest Christian on blasphemy charges
As silence falls on the imam behind the blasphemy, Rimsha Masih's case goes to juvenile court


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