Reports out of Pakistan indicate 14-year-old Rimsha Masih, the Christian girl with Down syndrome accused of burning pages of Islam’s holy book, was freed Saturday from a jail near the capital where she had been held for three weeks.
Open Doors USA, which works with indigenous Christians around the globe, says it has received promises the girl will be allowed to join her family members, who were relocated to a secret location for their safety.
Masih’s attorneys told a bail hearing that the young woman, who is either 11 or 14 by various reports, should have been released because it’s alleged that a Muslim imam planted burned pages of a religious book in her bag, making it look like she had attacked Islam.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper said Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chisti’s colleagues “claimed to have seen him adding pages of the Quran to a bag of ashes Rimsha Masih had been carrying away for disposal last month in order to strengthen the case against her.”
Open Doors USA analyst Jerry Dykstra says there are a couple of factors that will determine what happens next.
“The good news is that she’s been granted bail and that she is supposed to be released and reunited with her parents after someone posted the $10,500 bail, which is a huge amount for a poor Christian in that area,” Dykstra said.
“It looks like she’ll be out because that’s only half the battle. As of now, she is still charged with blasphemy. The next step is to get her and her family to a safe place,” Dykstra said.
Dykstra stresses the need for protection because of past cases where the government has neglected to protect those charged with blasphemy.
“The government has failed to protect some of the Christians charged with blasphemy. Many … democracy supporters have been stricken and killed. That’s been documented over the past two years,” Dykstra said.
“So she needs protection from some of the fanatical Muslims in Pakistan. That’s the first thing is that she needs to be protected,” Dykstra said.
WND reported in 2010 that two brothers who were falsely accused of blasphemy under Pakistan’s strident law were gunned down on the courthouse steps after their release from jail.
“The town where she’s from outside of Islamabad, some of the Christians were driven from their homes. Many of them have not returned so hopefully it will be safe enough for some of those families to return,” Dykstra said.
Dykstra says Christians need to pray for the young woman because of her apparent disability.
“She is alleged to have a mental impairment so it’s just common sense to drop the charge. There’s a lot of pressure on the government and the court system to drop the charge,” Dykstra said.
“But there’s also pressure from some of the more radical Muslims who still want her charged,” Dykstra said.
Dykstra adds that Open Doors USA will start a campaign on behalf of the girl.
“Open Doors will be starting a campaign for Rimsha … We’re going to have a writing campaign to the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Sherry Rehman,” Dykstra said.
“We’re going to be asking her for justice and for protection for Rimsha. That will be on our website with more information starting next week,” Dykstra said.
WND reported earlier that a violent mob spent hours blocking a main highway into the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, demanding the death penalty for the girl.
Pakistani human rights activist Shalom Bashara at that time told WND the child was accused of burning and destroying pages of Arabic-language religious material.
Barnabas Aid reported at the time the book reported was “Noorani Qaida,” a booklet used to learn the basics of the Quran.