Pakistani Girl Accused of Blasphemy Released on Bail
Freedom House welcomes the release of Rimsha Masih on bail of one million rupees ($10,500) after being accused of blasphemy for allegedly burning pages with verses of the Koran. We remain gravely concerned for her safety and that of her family and call on authorities to ensure their protection as they continue to receive death threats and are in hiding.
Rimsha was taken in to custody in Islamabad on August 16 after an angry mob accused her of blasphemy and called for her arrest. Nearly 400 families, many of them Christian, have been forced to flee the capital following violent protests. Pakistani imam Muhammad Khalid Chishti, who called for Rimsha to face the death penalty, was taken in to custody this week after he was accused of planting the burned pages in Rimsha’s bag.
Rimsha is not the first person targeted by Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which sentences to death or life in prison any person who “defiles the Koran.” Misuse of the blasphemy law has led to increased detention and fatal violence. In early 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, and Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minority Affairs, were murdered after speaking out publicly against the blasphemy law. A month prior to Rimsha’s arrest, a Muslim man suspected of blasphemy was pulled out of a police station by an angry mob and killed.
Freedom House calls for Pakistan to repeal or significantly reform its blasphemy law in an effort to better protect citizens.
Freedom in the World 2012: Pakistan
Freedom of the Press 2011: Pakistan
Freedom on the Net 2011: Pakistan
Policing Belief: The Impact of Blasphemy Laws on Human Rights
Blog: The Ravages of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law