Bishop Hopeful Pakistani Girl Will Be Cleared of Blasphemy Charges
Says Muslims, Christians Have Shown 'Unprecedented Support'
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LAHORE, Pakistan, AUG. 31, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The bishop in charge of Pakistan's Lahore Archdiocese is expressing hopes that a girl with learning difficulties being held on blasphemy charges could soon be released.
Bishop Sebastian Shaw, apostolic administrator of Lahore, told the charity Aid to the Church in Need that the campaign for the youngster’s freedom had attracted “unprecedented support," including from leading Muslims.
Speaking from Pakistan today, Bishop Shaw said that sympathy for Rimsha Masih had grown, especially with medical reports released this week saying the child is younger than 14, and with a mental age below that.
Pakistani law stipulates that Rimsha should be protected if it is established that she is a child unaware of the crime she is alleged to have committed.
Court proceedings are due to reopen on Monday to examine the medical report.
Bishop Shaw said: “We believe that she could be released soon. Many people have the understanding that she is a minor.
“There are witnesses now saying that the incident in which she was accused happened in a different way to what was said earlier.
"Neighbors are saying she is innocent. We strongly believe that she will be released and we are praying that God will hear us.”
He went on, “Never before have we seen such an outpouring of sympathy for someone accused of blasphemy in this way. What has been going on is unprecedented.”
Rimsha was incarcerated two weeks ago after she was accused of burning Islamic texts, a crime punishable by life imprisonment, but that often leads to death at the hands of vigilantes.