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Blasphemy accused Rimsha finds refuge in Canada

Updated June 29, 2013
Security personnel shift Rimsha Masih (L) to a helicopter after her release from jail in Rawalpindi on Sept 8, 2012. — Photo by AFP
Security personnel shift Rimsha Masih (L) to a helicopter after her release from jail in Rawalpindi on Sept 8, 2012. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: A Christian girl who was accused of burning Islam's holy book in a case that focused international attention on Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws was forced to move to Canada over security concerns, her lawyer said Saturday.

The girl left Pakistan with her parents, three sisters and a brother on March 14, attorney Tahir Naveed Chaudhry said.

The Associated Press did not name the girl due to organisational policy. However, a BBC report has named the blasphemy accused as Rimsha Masih.

A Muslim cleric who lobbied for her release, Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, said she had been facing threats and was moving constantly. “I am sad that this innocent girl had to leave Pakistan. She had been acquitted by the court, and despite that it was not possible for her to live freely,” he said.

Canada's immigration service said privacy concerns prevented them from saying whether she was in the country.

The girl was arrested in August last year in Islamabad after a Muslim cleric accused her of burning the Quran. The cleric was later accused of fabricating evidence, and the girl was acquitted.

The case received attention in part because of her young age and questions about her mental abilities. An official medical report at the time put her age at 14 although some of her supporters said she was as young as 11. The medical report also said her mental state did not correspond with her age.

Even though the case against her was thrown out, people accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are often subject to vigilante justice.

Mobs have been known to attack and kill people accused of blasphemy, and two prominent politicians who have discussed changes to the blasphemy laws have been killed.