SANTA ANA, Calif. (Aug. 30, 2012) – According to Open Doors News, Rimsha Masih is likely to be cleared of the blasphemy charge against her, but never will be able to return home, her lawyer says.
Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, who has taken up the defense of the young Christian girl whose case has renewed international debate about Pakistan’s notorious anti-blasphemy laws, said he is confident Rimsha will qualify for release on bail later this week. The government, however, may ask the court to keep her in custody until tensions ease.
Naveed, a member of Pakistan’s Punjab provincial assembly, also hinted that the blasphemy accusations against Rimsha may have been motivated partly by overtures toward her older sister being rebuffed.
“I am quite hopeful of securing Rimsha’s release on bail,” Naveed told Open Doors News. “A medical board has certified that she is 14, although her church record claims her age to be around 11.”
Under Section 7 of Pakistan’s Juvenile Justice Ordinance, he said, Rimsha is not an adult and her case should be transferred to a juvenile court. Nor does she have the maturity to understand the concept of blasphemy, he said.
“The medical report has also supported our contention that her mental age is not compatible with her physical age,” Naveed said. “Both official findings will help us in proving that the charges against her have been wrongly framed and she should be set free on bail immediately.”
“While her pending release is good news, the future of Rimsha, her family and the Christians from her community are in jeopardy,” says Open Door USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller. “Christians in the West need to keep those marginalized Christians in our prayers, including Aasiya Noreen (Bibi) who is languishing in a Pakistani prison after being sentenced to hang due to false blasphemy charges.”
Rimsha, a resident of a poor Christian pocket of Islamabad, was reported to authorities Aug. 17 on the testimony of neighboring Muslims who accused her of carrying burned pages of Quranic verses. Little is known about how the girl came to be carrying burned religious texts. Even so, police have said they placed the girl in jail both to placate angry demonstrators and to keep Rimsha safe from attack. Her parents likewise were removed to protective custody, while hundreds of Christian neighbors fled to the relative safety of more distant Islamabad sectors. Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, stepped into the matter, warning against vigilantism and ordering the interior ministry to investigate.
The accusations against the girl have renewed international condemnation of Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws, which carry the potential of a life sentence for desecrating the Quran, and the death penalty for insulting the prophet Muhammad. Inside Pakistan, the laws enjoy widespread popular support, and prominent government officials who have advocated they be repealed have been killed.
Rimsha’s defense, her lawyer said, pivots on the legal requirement that “willful desecration of the Quran” must be proved. In this case, Rimsha is both too young, and too mentally incapable, to carry out intentional defamation.
“The law clearly does not apply to her,” Naveed said. “There was no willful desecration on her part. There is no way the poor child could know what she is being accused of having done.”
According to Reuters, the bail hearing for Rimsha has been postponed from today to Saturday.
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world’s most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our Website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
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