Pakistan imam held for evidence-tampering in blasphemy case
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistani police have arrested a Muslim cleric on suspicion of planting evidence against a Christian girl accused of blasphemy, officers said Sunday, September 2.
Rimsha has been in custody since she was arrested in a poor Islamabad suburb more than two weeks ago accused of burning papers containing verses from the Koran, in breach of Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws.
Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, the imam of the mosque in Rimsha's poor area of Islamabad who first handed over evidence, was arrested on Saturday after his assistants told a magistrate he had added pages from the Koran to the burnt pages to strengthen the case against the girl.
"(Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti) was arrested after his deputy Maulvi Zubair and two others told a magistrate he added pages from the Koran to the burnt pages brought to him by a witness," police investigator Munir Hussain Jaffri told AFP.
Rimsha must wait until at least Monday to learn if she will be given bail, after a judge adjourned her case on Saturday amid doubts over legal paperwork.
A medical report earlier this week said Rimsha appeared to be around 14 years old, which would make her a minor, and had a mental age below her true age, but the court has yet to decide whether to accept the assessment.
Some reports have said Rimsha has Down's Syndrome and her case has prompted concern from Western governments and anger from rights groups, who warn the blasphemy legislation is often abused to settle personal vendettas.
She is being held in a high-security jail in Islamabad's twin city Rawalpindi and on Friday a judge extended her remand for another two weeks.
Blasphemy is a very sensitive subject in the Pakistan, where 97 percent of the 180 million population are Muslims, and allegations of insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammed often prompt a furious public reaction. - Agence France-Presse