rimsha-rescue-AFP-670
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 Pakistani cleric who accused a young Christian girl of blasphemy and had been arrested for framing evidence was released on Friday, a day after he was granted bail by a court, his lawyer said.

The girl Rimsha Masih spent three weeks in an adult jail after she was arrested on August 16 for allegedly burning pages from the Quran, in a case that prompted worldwide condemnation.

She and her family remain in hiding for safety after Rimsha was released on bail and her case was sent to a juvenile court last month, following a medical report that said she was 14.

Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, the imam of the mosque in Rimsha's area, who first gave police the burned papers as evidence against her, was detained on September 1 for desecrating the Quran himself and tampering with evidence.

“My client has been released and he came out of Adiyala jail today,” his lawyer Wajid Ali Gilani told AFP.

Chishti was granted bail on Thursday on one surety and a bond of 200,000 rupees (about 2,000 dollars) by the court in Islamabad, he said.

The cleric was arrested after his deputy Maulvi Zubair and two others told a magistrate Chishti added pages from the Quran to the burnt pages brought to him by a witness, investigators have said.

Zubair and the two others, Mohammad Shahzad and Awais Ahmed, said they had urged Chishti not to interfere with the papers but he told them it was the only way to expel the Christians from the area.

On August 24 Chishti told AFP he thought Rimsha burned the pages deliberately as part of a Christian “conspiracy” to insult Muslims, and said action should have been taken sooner to stop what he called their “anti-Islam activities” in impoverished Mehrabad neighbourhood of Islamabad.

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