Pak blasphemy case: Christian girl moved to undisclosed place

Pak blasphemy case: Christian girl moved to undisclosed place

A young, mentally-challenged Christian girl accused of blasphemy has been moved from the police headquarters in the Pakistani capital to an undisclosed location for security reasons, days after she was granted bail in the controversial case that has sparked international concern.

14-year-old Rimsha Masih, who was granted bail by a court here on Friday, was moved from the Police Lines Headquarters to an undisclosed location within the country last night, sources said today.

She and her family had been kept at the police headquarters after she was released from the high-security Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi on Saturday. Tight security arrangements were made for transporting Rimsha to another city from the women's barracks at the police headquarters.

There was speculation last night that Rimsha and her family would be flown out of Pakistan but Christian leader Paul Bhatti, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Harmony, said the girl and her family had not left the country.

Bhatti told the media that Rimsha and her family had been moved to a "safe place selected by the authorities." A police officer said police had recorded two statements of the girl.

The first was recorded at a police station soon after she was arrested on August 16 and the second at Adiala Jail. In the first statement, she admitted to burning some pages of a religious text but in the second she denied having done so, the unnamed officer was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper.

The officer said the investigation team will record another statement of the girl as some questions were unanswered, such as where she had got the polythene bag stuffed with pages of a religious text and why Malik Ammad, the man who accused Rimsha, was sitting near the drain outside her house when she reportedly took the bag to a garbage dump.

Rimsha was released from jail on Saturday amidst high drama. Footage on television showed armed policemen surrounding Rimsha, whose face was covered with a green scarf, as she was escorted to a helicopter and flown away from Adiala Jail.

She was freed after being held in jail for over three weeks following her arrest on August 16 for allegedly burning papers that contained Quranic verses. The case against Rimsha collapsed after a man told police that he had seen the cleric of the mosque in the neighbourhood planting evidence that was used to implicate Rimsha.

Rimsha's case has triggered international concern because of her young age and reported mental problems. An official medical board that examined Rimsha concluded that she was about 14 years old and that her mental development did not correspond to her age.

An NGO named 'Christians in Pakistan' had earlier reported on its website that the girl has 'Down Syndrome'.

Rights groups have warned that Pakistan's controversial law is often used to settle personal scores or persecute minorities like Christians. Last year, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, were gunned down by extremists after they criticised the blasphemy law.

Rimsha's case, which drew concern from the West and the Vatican, also focussed attention once again on Pakistan's harsh blasphemy law, under which a person can be punished with life in prison or death.