8 Sep 2012

Christian girl granted bail in Islam defamation case

9:01 am on 8 September 2012

A judge in Pakistan has granted bail to a young Christian girl accused of blasphemy in a case that has caused an international outcry.

Rimsha Masih, believed to be aged 14, has been in police custody since last month after accused by Muslim neighbours of burning pages of the Koran.

But police recently said a cleric had been taken into custody after witnesses reported he had torn pages from a Koran and planted them in Ms Masih's bag beside burned papers.

In the teenager's impoverished village on the edge of Islamabad, some said they were disappointed that she had not been sentenced.

The girl would be reunited with her family at a location that was being kept secret for security reasons, an aide to Minister for National Harmony Paul Bhatti said.

The case has provoked criticism of Pakistan's severe blasphemy laws which could result in a death sentence for those convicted of causing offence to Islam.

Reuters reports the teenager may be in danger if she is set free and stays in Pakistan. Her arrest last month angered religious and secular groups worldwide but protests in Pakistan attracted only a handful of supporters.

Those accused under an anti-blasphemy law are sometimes lynched by the public even if found innocent by the courts.