Pakistan: Rimsha Masih case thrown out by High Court  20/11/2012

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) in Pakistan today ordered that the case against Rimsha Masih, the young Christian girl accused of blasphemy in August, be thrown out.

Last week the IHC reserved its judgment on an application from Rimsha Masih's lawyers for the original charge to be annulled. Her lawyers contended that the charge was fabricated and cited the girl's age and learning difficulties as reasons for dismissal. During today's hearing, IHC Chief Justice Iqbal Hameed ur Rahman ordered the police to dismiss the First Information Report (FIR) filed against her. Her accuser's lawyers retain the right to appeal the decision.

Rimsha's actual trial has been on hold since 28 September, when the IHC restrained the lower court from moving forward while it deliberated.

Rimsha, who is deemed to be fourteen years old but with a younger mental age, was charged with desecrating the Qur'an under section 295B of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). She has been out on bail for over two months and is in hiding with her family. Rimsha's case has attracted support from senior Islamic clerics in Pakistan, as well as a high level of international attention. A revised charge sheet submitted by police in September indicated that no evidence had been found to support the accusation against her.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide's (CSW's) Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “This is extremely welcome news – we applaud the IHC for making the decision and enabling reason and the rule of law to prevail in Rimsha's case. It is unusual for a blasphemy charge to be thrown out in this manner and the result is testimony to the wisdom of her legal team, from the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), in approaching the IHC. The security of Rimsha and her family remains a priority concern, as a favourable court ruling does not guarantee personal safety in blasphemy cases, and this decision may yet be challenged. Moreover, it remains to be seen whether the man accused of framing Rimsha will be held accountable. If he is, it will be a sign of the kind of progress stressed by Pakistan during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN last month, and may well make others think twice before misusing the laws in a similar fashion.”

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.

For more information, please call 0845 456 5464, email admin@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk