Christian Girl Accused of Blasphemy in Pakistan Released on Bail

Prison official in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, where Rimsha Masih was being held since August 16, confirmed her release after accusations that she insulted Islam.

A Christian girl accused of insulting Islam in Pakistan was released on bail Saturday after spending three weeks in detention, in a case that renewed international criticism of the country's strict blasphemy laws.

An official at the high-security Adiala prison in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, where Rimsha Masih was being held since August 16, confirmed the release.

A judge in Islamabad had granted Masih bail on Friday, but her release was delayed due to a procedural delay in the processing of surety bonds totaling 1 million Pakistani rupees (10,640 dollars).

Private Express News television showed her sitting in a helicopter before being taken to an undisclosed location. Activists are concerned for her safety and that of hundreds of Christians who fled the Islamabad slum where she was arrested.

Masih was arrested in August after Muslim neighbours alleged that she had burnt pages containing Islamic inscriptions.

But a Muslim cleric, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, was arrested at the weekend for allegedly planting pages of the Koran in a bag containing burnt papers to frame the girl.

Chishti has rejected the allegations by members of his mosque as "fabricated." But his accusers allege the cleric himself desecrated the Koran in an attempt to drive out the Christian minority from the neighborhood.

A panel of doctors said Masih, who is believed to be under 14, suffers from learning disabilities, with an IQ level lower than those her age.

Several Islamist leaders in Pakistan have joined an international outcry over the arrest, which revived calls to review - if not repeal - Pakistan's controversial laws about blasphemy, which is a crime punishable by death.

The Pakistan Ulema Council, a group representing Muslim scholars, said it sees the case as a litmus test of the government's commitment to discouraging misuse of blasphemy laws to persecute minorities.

Rimsha Masih is  released from jail, September 8. 2012.