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Witnesses Change Testimony Against Christian Girl: Pakistan Muslim Cleric Says She Burned Quran

The fate of a teenage Pakistani Christian accused of blasphemy is hanging in the balance after three witnesses who had earlier claimed she had been framed changed their testimony. The witnesses originally claimed that Khalid Jadoon Chisti, a Muslim cleric, had torn pages from a copy of the Quran and planted them in bags of ashes the girl had been carrying to make it look as though she had been burning portions of the Muslim holy book -- crucial testimony that could absolve her of the blasphemy charges. But at a recent bail hearing for the Imam, three of four witnesses went back on their statements. The girl, Rimsha Masih, was arrested in August after a neighbour accused her of burning pages of the Quran to use as cooking fuel. It's the latest twist in a case that has stirred up religious tensions in this neighbourhood on the outskirts of the capital Islamabad. Critics say blasphemy laws in Pakistan are vague and open to abuse and are often used to settle personal vendettas. Last year Pakistan's Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was shot dead after receiving death threats for urging reform to the laws. The law may also be used against several Muslims who recently attacked a Hindu temple on the outskirts of Karachi. The cases comes at a time when some religious leaders are calling on the world community to enact laws against blasphemy, following widespread anger throughout the Muslim world in reaction to several anti-Islam demonstrations, including the US-made film that ...
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