South Asia

Pakistan Christian girl accused of blasphemy released

"Rimsha" is escorted to a helicopter after being released form jail in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, 8 September 2012 Image copyright AP
Image caption The girl, known as Rimsha, was arrested on 16 August on charges of blasphemy

A Christian girl in Pakistan who was arrested on blasphemy charges has been released from prison in Rawalpindi, a minister has said.

On Friday a judge ordered her release and set bail at about $10,500 (£6,200).

The girl, thought to be 14 years old but with a younger mental age, was arrested last month after a mob accused her of burning pages of the Koran.

Last week an imam was remanded in custody, accused of planting burned pages of the Koran in the girl's bag.

The case against the girl, known as Rimsha, has sparked international alarm and has been condemned by human rights groups.

Blasphemy is not a bailable offence but her lawyers pleaded that she was a juvenile.

'Met family'

The girl's lawyer said she had been released after two guarantors posted a bond against assurances that she would reappear in court, the AFP news agency said.

Pakistan's minister for national harmony said the girl was transported by helicopter to a safe location where she was met by her family.

Her father had previously said he feared for his daughter's life and for the safety of his family.

Rimsha's parents were taken into protective custody at an undisclosed location following threats. Many other Christian families fled the neighbourhood after her arrest.

Rights activists have long urged Pakistan to reform its blasphemy laws, under which a person can be jailed for life for desecrating the Koran.

In March 2011 Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minority affairs, was killed after calling for the repeal of the blasphemy law.

His death came just two months after the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who also spoke out about the issue.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97% of the population are Muslim.

In the past accusations of blasphemy have led to vigilante killings by mobs.

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