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Pakistani girl who was accused of blasphemy released from jail

The girl, believed to be 14, was arrested last month for allegedly burning pages of the Koran. An imam was later accused of having planted the pages in the girl’s bag.

The young girl is escorted by police official to a helicopter following her release.
The young girl is escorted by police official to a helicopter following her release.
Image: Anjum Naveed/AP/Press Association Images

A GIRL WHO was accused of blasphemy in Pakistan was today released on bail after more than three weeks in jail according to officials.

In a case that has sparked an international outcry, Rimsha Masih was arrested on 16 August for allegedly burning pages containing verses from the Koran.

The Christian girl was released from a prison in Rawalpindi after a court accepted her bail application. AFP reports that that the girl, who is thought to be aged 14, was then flown by helicopter to be reunited with her family.

Last week an imam was accused of having planted the burned pages of the Koran into the girl’s bag. He was remanded in custody.

Pakistan television showed the girl wearing a traditional baggy green shirt and dark green trousers stepping out of an armoured vehicle and sitting in a helicopter.

Rimsha’s lawyer, Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, confirmed her release after two guarantors submitted a surety bond of around $10,500 guaranteeing that the girl would reappear before court at the court’s choosing.

Under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, insulting the prophet Mohammed is punishable by death and burning a sacred text, by life imprisonment.

Human rights groups have called for reform of the laws but blasphemy is a very sensitive subject in Pakistan where almost all of the 180 million population are Muslims.

Allegations of insulting Islam or the prophet Mohammed often prompt a furious public reaction.

In January 2011, the governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer was assassinated in Islamabad by his own security guard who disagreed with Taseer’s opposition to the blasphemy law.

- with reporting from AFP

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Hugh O'Connell

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