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Pakistan Case Turns
Against Christian Girl

BY STAFF                                                                                                             ©2012 Baptist Press    

The Pakistan blasphemy case against 14-year-old Rimsha Masih has taken a   sudden turn against her.

The Christian girl was charged with blasphemy more than a month ago for allegedly burning pages from the Quran. Four witnesses then came forward accusing Muslim cleric Khalid Jadoon Chishti of tearing out the pages himself to falsely incriminate Masih.

But CNN reported on Monday that, according to the cleric's lawyer, three of the witnesses recanted their testimony during the cleric's bail hearing.

In a sworn statement before a court in Islamabad, the men claimed police tortured them and forced them to make statements against Chishti, according to the Express Tribune. A fourth witness is standing by his original testimony against the cleric.

Police insist they never pressured the witnesses, with Islamabad's police chief accusing the men of lying to the court.

"If they have changed their statements, they are just lying," Chief Bin Yamin told CNN.

Masih, who is reportedly mentally handicapped, was accused of burning pages from the Quran in August when a neighbor claimed he saw her carrying a trash bag with burnt pages of the Muslim holy book. After an irate mob surrounded her house and threatened to burn her alive, police arrested her -- they claimed for her own protection -- and charged her with desecrating the Quran, a crime that carries a life sentence.

According to CNN, Masih's lawyers say the neighbor wanted to settle a personal score with the girl, probably because he liked her and she didn't return his affection. Masih's lawyers added that no one actually saw her burning pages from the Quran, but the neighbor brought a trash bag to Chishti containing burnt pages of a book that included quotations from the holy book.

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