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Pakistan: Cleric arrested for planting evidence in blasphemy case

The cleric responsible for accusing a Christian girl for blasphemy has been arrested in Pakistan after witnesses claimed he planted evidence against her.

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Homeless Pakistani Christians protest for the protection of Christian minorities in Islamabad on April 27, 2009. (Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images)

KARACHI, Pakistan — Police have arrested a muslim cleric who reportedly planted evidence to frame a mentally disabled Christian girl for blasphemy.

The girl, Rimsha Masih, was arrested outside Islamabad two weeks ago after an angry mob of 150 people claimed that she was burning pages with Quranic verse on them.

However, the cleric, Khalid Jadoon Chisti, didn't think that burning pages simply containing texts from Quran would be enough evidence to charge Rimsha, so he planted pages from the Holy Quran into the evidence, CNN reported.

Chisti was arrested by police after three witnesses came forward and told a judge about the cleric's actions. 

The case has brought Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws into the spotlight once again.

According to Voice of America, anyone accused of blasphemy in Pakistan can be executed under the death penalty. The laws are often blatantly misused to settle local disputes, and human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, have called on the Pakistani government to reform the law.

In 2011, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was gunned down by his bodyguard for supporting reform and speaking out against a Pakistan Christian, Aasia Noreen, being given the death sentence for blasphemy. A few months later, Pakistan's minority minister, a Christian, was also killed. Taseer's son was kidnapped that August.

Rimsha is currently in a maximum-security prison, though a report by an independent medical board found her to be a minor, and reported that her IQ was lower than her age. Unverified reports claim that the girl may have Down's Syndrome.

The BBC reported that Rimsha's family has been taken into protective custody, and many Christian families have fled the neighborhood, fearing religious persecution.

A court will decide whether Rimsha remains in jail this Monday.  

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/pakistan/120902/pakistan-cleric-arrested-planting-evidence-blasph