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By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

There have been calls in Pakistan to drop the case against Rimsha Masih.



ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)-- A Pakistani court refused on Wednesday, November 14, to rule on whether to dismiss a controversial case against a mentally challenged Christian girl who has been charged with "blasphemy against Islam."

Rimsha Masih, 14, was detained from a suburb of Islamabad on August 16 after a neighbor accused her of burning pages containing verses from the Koran, viewed as a holy book by Muslims.

Despite international pressure, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) said it "reserved its verdict" on an application seeking to dismiss the case, which was launched by Rimsha's accusers under Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws.

The IHC did not say when it expects to reach a decision.

NEW SETBACK

It came as another setback for Rimsha, whose mental capabilities are much lower than a girl her age, according to a medical report seen by BosNewsLife.

She and her family were moved to an undisclosed location amid reported death threats, after the girl was released on bail on September 8.

Wednesday's IHC announcement not to rule on the case yet was remarkable as on September 22 police investigators found the girl "innocent" of "blasphemy", referring to witnesses testimonies.

The witnesses reportedly testified that detained Muslim prayer leader Hafiz Muhammed Khalid Chishti planted evidence to accuse Rimsha of blasphemy and rid the neighborhood of Christians.

WITHDRAWING TESTIMONIES

However, several witnesses later withdrew their testimonies, saying they made their statements under duress.

Rights activists have expressed their doubts and question the fairness of the trial.

"Only a fortnight ago, during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN, Pakistan cited the handling of Rimsha’s case as a sign of positive change, in response to criticism of the country’s blasphemy laws," noted Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of the Christian Solidarity Worldwide advocacy group.

"Within Pakistan itself, the case has been held up as a clear example of misuse of the laws from the very beginning and there seems little point in prolonging the trial any further," added Thomas, who closely followed the case.

"We urge the competent authorities to annul the original charge without delay, sparing Rimsha any further ordeal in court and demonstrating that the early progress so strongly highlighted at Pakistan’s UPR is a reality on the ground."

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