Muslim cleric arrested on suspicion of framing Christian girl with ‘Down’s Syndrome’ for burning pages of Koran
- Young girl was arrested earlier this month under Pakistan’s controversial anti-blasphemy law
- She was accused by Muslim neighbours of burning Islamic religious texts
- But today Muslim cleric Khalid Jadoon was detained after appearing in court for allegedly setting up the girl
By Emma Clark
PUBLISHED: 17:04, 2 September 2012 |
Pakistani authorities have arrested a Muslim cleric for the suspected set up of a young girl, reported to have Down’s Syndrome, accused of burning pages of a Koran.
Religious and secular groups worldwide have protested over the detention of the young Rimsha Masih, thought to be 11-years-old, arrested after furious Muslim neighbours said she charred pages of the Islamic religious text.
She may have moved a step closer to freedom after police arrested Khalid Jadoon on suspicion of planting evidence to frame the Christian girl, who was taken into custody earlier this month under the country’s controversial anti-blasphemy law.
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Police official Munir Hussain Jafri said he was arrested after witnesses from Masih’s village on the edge of the capital Islamabad claimed he had torn pages from a Koran and planted them in Masih’s bag beside burned papers.
‘Witnesses complained that he had torn pages from a Koran and placed them in her bag which had burned papers,’ Jafri told Reuters.
Jadoon, appeared briefly in court today before he was sent to jail for a 14-day judicial remand.
A bail hearing will be held on Monday for Masih, whose case has re-focused a spotlight on Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law.
Last week Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari said he had ‘taken notice’ of the reports of the arrest and asked Pakistan’s interior ministry to present a report to him.
There were varying reports on the girl’s age and whether she suffered from Down’s Syndrome. Ullah said she was 16 while other officials have said she was either 12 or 11.
Niazi said that when the girl was brought to the police station she was scared and unable to speak normally, but he did not know whether she suffered from mental health issues.
Under the law, anyone who is found guilty of speaking ill of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad faces the death penalty.
Activists and human rights groups say vague terminology has led to its misuse, and that the law dangerously discriminates against the Muslim country’s tiny minority groups.
Critics of Pakistan’s leaders say they are too worried about an extremist backlash to speak out against the law in a nation where religious conservatism is increasingly prevalent.
Convictions are common, although the death sentence has never been carried out. While most convictions are thrown out on appeal, mobs have killed many people accused of blasphemy.
Masih’s arrest triggered an exodus of several hundred Christians from her poor village after mosques reported over their loudspeakers what the girl was alleged to have done.
Christians, who make up four percent of Pakistan’s population of 180 million, have been especially concerned about the blasphemy law, saying it offers them no protection.
Convictions hinge on witness testimony and are often linked to vendettas, they complain.
In 2009, 40 houses and a church were set ablaze by a mob of 1,000 Muslims in the town of Gojra, in Punjab province following reports of the desecration of the Koran
At least seven Christians were burned to death during the attacks.
Two Christian brothers accused of writing a blasphemous letter against the Prophet Mohammad were gunned down outside a court in the eastern city of Faisalabad in July of 2010.