Pakistani police arrested an Imam on Sunday over accusations he had planted evidence on a Christian girl accused of burning a Koran, allegedly to frame her. Witnesses say the cleric tore pages from the Koran and planted them in the girl’s bag.
Imam Khalid Chishti had previously presented police with evidence that Rimsha Masih – a Christian girl believed to be 11 to 14 years old who may also be mentally disabled – had committed blasphemy by burning pages of the Koran. He was arrested on Sunday after witnesses claimed he had falsified the evidence.
“The imam was arrested after his deputy Maulvi Zubair and two others told a magistrate he added pages from the Koran to the burnt pages brought to him by a witness,” AFP quoted police official Munir Hussain Jafri as saying.
“They protested that he should not add something to the evidence and he should give the evidence to the police as he got it and should not do this,” Jaffri said.
Chishti allegedly responded by saying, “You know this is the only way to expel the Christians from this area.”
Masih’s arrest in August on blasphemy charges prompted international concern. Masih was accused by Chishti and others of burning pages of the Koran, an offense punishable by death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Masih’s age is unknown, but she is believed to be around 14. A government-appointed medical board concluded that she is developmentally disabled, the BBC reported.
The controversy deepened amid reports that the girl was not actually seen burning the pages, but was rather found with pages torn from the Koran in her bag.
Paul Bhatti, Pakistani Minister for National Harmony, said that the girl was known to have a mental disability – supposedly Down syndrome – and that it seemed “unlikely she purposefully desecrated the Koran.”