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Imam arrest bolsters Christian girl's case

Defence lawyer aims to use same law to charge Rimsha Masih's accuser

Muslim worshippers at Friday prayers. Now an imam could be charged with defiling the Qu'ran Muslim worshippers at Friday prayers. Now an imam could be charged with defiling the Qu'ran
  • ucanews.com reporter, Lahore
  • Pakistan
  • September 4, 2012
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Lawyers representing a young Christian girl accused of blasphemy say they will use the same controversial law against her accuser, a Muslim cleric who was arrested at the weekend for evidence-tampering and desecration of the Qu’ran.

Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, an imam at a mosque in an Islamabad suburb, was arrested on Saturday after his assistants said they saw him putting pages of the Qu’ran in the bag of 14-year-old Rimsha Masih, a minor.

The development has added an ironic twist to a case that has caused an international outcry.

The teenager had earlier been accused by the imam of burning pages of the Muslim holy book and had put the ashes and charred remains in the bag. He allegedly put the additional pages in the bag in order to strengthen the evidence against her.

The imam’s arrest has raised Christian hopes that Masih will be released soon. A hearing into her case was adjourned yesterday until September 7 because of a lawyer’s strike.

Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, Masih’s lawyer, says Chishti’s arrest boosts his client’s chances of being released, adding that he will use the same laws being used against Masih to pursue the imam.

“We shall try our best to try Chishti under the same section 295-B, which provides for mandatory life imprisonment for desecrating the Holy Qu’ran. Separately the punishment for tampering with evidence is seven years imprisonment,” he said.

Section 295-B of the Pakistan penal code, which prohibits blasphemy against any of the country's recognized religions, forbids defiling the Qu'ran.

Chaudhry also said the charges against Masih are an attempt to take land from Christians.

“It is apparent the accusation was a bid to reclaim expensive property presently occupied by Christians in the capital city. The world can now see the cruelty and intolerance religious minorities are subjected to here”, he said.

Meanwhile, Muslim clerics have called for transparency in the case against Chishti, while defending the blasphemy laws.

Moulana Abdul Khabeer Azad Khateeb, a preacher at Badshahi Mosque, the second largest mosque in the country, called for a thorough investigation.

“Any Muslim cannot tolerate insults to the Prophet Mohammad or desecrating the Qu’ran. However this religious issue has become a judicial case now. Chishti should be punished if found guilty,” he said.

Amjad Saeed Rahimi, a senior Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Party leader, expressed disbelief that the world was focusing on “a simple Pakistani girl.”

"We hope this is not a drama to pressurize the courts. The West is always against Islamic culture and our religious laws," he said.

Atia Nasir of Jamat-e-Islami, president of the Women and Family Commission in Sindh province, also voiced her suspicions of attempts to discredit the country’s blasphemy laws.

“Christians should be brought to justice if they are found guilty of conspiring against Islam,” she said.

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