ASIA/PAKISTAN - Rimsha acquitted, historic verdict: Now a "Mixed Commission" for cases of blasphemy is needed
Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) - Rimsha Masih has been acquitted, a Christian girl mentally disabled, falsely accused of blasphemy, who was arrested on August 16 and then released on bail on September 8. The Chief Judge of the High Court of Islmabad, Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, issued this morning, the full verdict of acquittal, stating "dismissed" the complaint (First Information Report) that contained the charges against the girl. The judge had reserved his decision after the hearing on 14 November, when the parties had submitted the conclusions of the hearing stage of the trial.
This morning the judge, before the lawyers of the parties, read the decision, but the written judgment has yet to be published. The Court accepted the argument of the defense, based on statements made by three witnesses who accuse the Muslim Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti, indicating him as the man who fabricated evidence to frame Rimsha. The prosecutor tried to remove the charges, making the three witnesses recant, adopting an "obstructionist" strategy to defer to the maximum the trial time. But this strategy failed.
At the head of Rimsha's defense team was the Muslim lawyer Rana Hamid, who expressed his satisfaction and received congratulations from everyone. The Catholic lawyer Tahir Naveed Chaudhry was also part of the college, who told Fides: "The court recognized Rimsha's innocence and the plot against her. It is the first time in the history of Pakistan that a prosecution process for blasphemy ends in this way. This ruling will set a precedent and will be very useful for the future but also for other cases of blasphemy present today in the courts. "
The lawyer immediately announced the news to Rimsha's family, currently in a secret place, who expressed "happiness and emotion for the end of the ordeal."
The "All Pakistan Minorities Alliance", an NGO led by the Catholic minister Paul Bhatti, who followed Rimsha's case, now relaunches the proposal to form a "Mixed Commission", with Christian leaders, experts, lawyers and Muslim leaders who can examine in advance cases of alleged blasphemy. The aim is to prevent painful events to be repeated, so that no one is able to abuse of the blasphemy law, hitting the innocent of any religion. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 20/11/2012)
Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - "The outcome of Rimsha Masih's case, a Christian girl acquitted on false charges of blasphemy, will be a contribution to peace, justice and interfaith harmony in Pakistan," says to Fides Agency Fr. Yousaf Emmanuel, Director of the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan. The Commission monitors all cases of blasphemy in the country and provides updated data to Fides: in 2011 161 people were indicted and 9 killed in extrajudicial executions, victims of the blasphemy law, composed by the articles 295b and 295c (insulting the Koran or Prophet Mohammed) of the Penal Code of Pakistan. In addition, the "Human Rights Monitor 2011", the annual report edited by the Commission, announces that between 1986 (when the law came into effect) and 2010, 1081 were accused of blasphemy: among them 138 Christians, 468 Muslims, 454 Ahmadis, 21 Hindus.
The Director of the Commission, speaking on behalf of the Pakistan Episcopate, remarked to Fides: "Today is a great day not only for Christians, but for the whole country. Rimsha's defense had solid arguments and the court decided in her favor. We are happy as Catholics, but I am happy that many Muslims have shared with us this battle for justice." Rimsha's case, in fact, notes Fr. Emmanuel, "has in fact strengthened interfaith dialogue in Pakistan: in every meeting, in every debate, Christians and Muslims have found themselves on the same side, in line to defend the same values of civilization, truth, legality and justice. They condemned together the abuses of the blasphemy law, which, it should be stressed, currently affects the majority of Muslim citizens.
This case has increased inter-religious harmony and will serve as an example with regards to the approach to follow to solve all the other problems that the nation faces." The Director indicates the "lesson" of the story of Rimsha: "Rimsha's case teaches us that, as Christians and Muslims we are called to work together in respect and cordiality, to counter the fundamentalists and extremists who intend to break harmony and trigger conflicts in society. On our behalf, we believe this is the approach of the Gospel: stand in front of our brother and sister in a spirit of kindness and love. " (PA) (Agenzia Fides 20/11/2012)