Thursday, October 18, 2012
Blasphemy accused Christian minor girl’s case extended now until November 14, 2012
The Imam who allegedly ‘planted’ evidence against her has been given bail
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
ISLAMABAD PAKISTAN (ANS) -- The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday, September 17, 2012, extended the restraining order until November 14, 2012, against the holding of the trial of Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl, accused of committing blasphemy.
The girl’s arrest, under the blasphemy laws, triggered an exodus of several hundred Christians from her poor neighborhood on the edge of Islamabad, many fearing for their lives.
Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive subject in Pakistan, where 97 per cent of the 180 million population are Muslims, and allegations of desecrating the Holy Koran or insulting Islam often provoke public fury.
According to Shamim Masih, an ANS correspondent in Pakistan and also a human rights activist, the IHC extended the stay during the hearing of a petition filed by the accused girl for quashing the First Informational Report (FIR) registered against her whom she had pleaded was baseless and had been based on false information.
“The court extended the stay in order to first decide on the petition for quashing the FIR,” said Shamim Masih. “During Wednesday’s hearing of Rimsha’s petition, Chaudhry Abdul Aziz, Advocate, submitted his power of attorney on behalf of Malik Ummad, the accuser.
The court, he said, directed the counsels to conclude their arguments at the upcoming hearing on November 14, 2012, and extended the restraining order until the said date.
Shamim Masih went on the say that in the petition filed for the FIR’s quashing, Rimsha’s lawyer had contended that it was the Imam, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, who had fabricated the charge of blasphemy because he wanted the Christian community to vacate the area.
Counsel Abdul Hameed Rana referred to the statement of prosecution witness Hafiz Zubair recorded under section 164 of CrPC on August 31 that the Imam had put pages of the Holy Koran in the shopping bag to make a case against the Christians.
Also, he said, the girl was a juvenile according to her medical report compiled by a board of seven doctors, which had also stated that she appeared to be uneducated and of underdeveloped mind.
“Under these circumstances, there was no chance of her conviction and further proceeding with the case would be a futile exercise, the petition had stated,” said Masih in his report to ANS.
The witnesses, Khurram Shahzad, Hafiz Mohammad Owais and Danish, in the court of district and sessions judge Islamabad Justice Raja Jawad Abbas, said that the police had coerced them into recording the statements in writing against Jadoon, the Imam of a local mosque of Mehra Jaffer.
The police had recorded the statements of Owais, Shahzad and Danish under section 161 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in which they had endorsed the statement of Hafiz Zubair, another witness in the case.
Moreover, the court adjourned the hearing in Jadoon’s bail plea until October 3. Jadoon was arrested on September 1 after Hafiz Mohammad Zubair, a prayer caller at the same mosque, testified against him before a magistrate.
On Sept 23, the investigation officer in the blasphemy case had exonerated Rimsha, the minor Christian girl, from the main allegation and declared Jadoon as the prime accused.
The information which had been submitted by the investigation officer had stated that Jadoon had ripped two pages from the Holy Koran and mixed them in the half burnt pages of a prayer learning book.
It had also stated that there were at least three witnesses who had claimed that they had personally observed Jadoon mixing the pages of Quran in the evidence to make the case more strong against Rimsha but there was not a single direct evidence or eyewitness who had claimed to have seen the minor girl burning the pages of the prayer book.
On September 3, Khurram Shahzad and Hafiz Owais recorded their separate statements under CrPC 161 (examination of witness by police), with investigating officer sub-inspector Munir Hussain Jaffery, stating that they saw Jadoon putting some pages of the Holy Quran in a plastic bag, after tearing them.
The sources in the police close to the investigation had told Dawn that the case’s complainant Malik Hammad, who was also a neighbor of the girl, brought a polythene shopper to the mosque carrying ashes and some burnt papers and handed it to them.
Earlier on Sept 1, Zubair, who had claimed being an eye-witness in the case, had in his statement said that he was sitting in Aitekaf (meditation) during the month of Ramazan in the mosque — situated in front of Rimsha’s house.
Zubair had alleged that when Hammad brought the burnt pages of the Holy Quran before Jadoon, the cleric included two pages of the holy verses in the evidence to strengthen the case against the minor girl.
Zubair had said he had tried to stop Jadoon and insisted that the original evidence should be produced against Rimsha before the police.
The witnesses had stated that Jadoon ignored his advice and said that it would make the case stronger and that would lead to the eviction of the Christian girl’s family from the area.
According to a story published in the Morning Star News, Session Judge Raja Jawwad Abbas on October 11 granted bail to Khalid Jadoon Chishti, leader of a mosque in the Meherabadi suburb of Islamabad. The bail came less than six weeks after his arrest.
The Morning Star News said he was granted bail for 200,000 rupees (US$2,065) after witnesses on Oct. 1 retracted statements that he added burnt pages of the Koran to a bag of ashes carried by Rimsha Masih, the Christian girl originally charged with desecrating the Koran.
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