Good news from Pakistan

Rimsha Masih has been acquitted, Agenzia Fides reports from Islamabad.   Rimsha, a Christian girl diagnosed with a mental illness, was falsely accused of blasphemy and arrested on August 16 and then released on bail on September 8. She was alleged to have burned some pages from the Koran.

The Chief Judge of the High Court of Islmabad, Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, issued the acquittal verdict and dismissed the complaint that contained the charges against the girl. The Court accepted the argument of the defence, based on statements made by three witnesses who accused the Muslim Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti of fabricating evidence to frame Rimsha.

“This is a victory for justice in Pakistan “ said Paul Bhatti, Minister for Harmony and leader of the APMA (All Pakistan Minorities Alliance). Bhatti is Shahbaz Bhatti’s brother, the Catholic Federal Minister for Minorities who was killed by terrorists in March 2011 in Islamabad. “The verdict of acquittal for Rimsha Masih is dedicated to my brother, Shahbaz Bhatti, who was so committed to the innocent victims of the blasphemy law “.

Paul Bhatti, visibly moved after the pronouncement of the court, said  “Rimsha’s acquittal is great news. I am very satisfied. It is a historic step for Pakistan. It is a ruling that launches two clear messages to the country. The first is for justice. We have confidence in our judicial system. It is important to believe in the rule of law. The second is for those who have used or intend to abuse the blasphemy law for personal purposes. It is clear that from now on every abuse will be punished, and will prevent so many innocent victims.”

Rimsha’s defense team was led by a  Muslim lawyer, Rana Hamid. The Catholic lawyer on the team, Tahir Naveed Chaudhry said, “The court recognized Rimsha’s innocence and the plot against her. It is the first time in the history of Pakistan that a prosecution process for blasphemy has ended in this way. This ruling will set a precedent and will be very useful for the future but also for other cases of blasphemy present today in the courts. ”

Rimsha in protective custody being led to the court for her trial

Rimsha’s family, currently in hiding, who expressed “happiness and emotion for the end of the ordeal.”

The “All Pakistan Minorities Alliance”, an NGO led by Paul Bhatti, is now relaunching the plan to form a “Mixed Commission”, with Christian leaders, experts, lawyers and Muslim leaders who can examine in advance cases of alleged blasphemy. The aim is to prevent the abuse of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

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