As a minor she’d be entitled to bail, while any mental disability could help acquit her of the charge, because blasphemy requires a willful act, under the law.
Rimsha’s immediate neighbor, Bin Amin Masih, a security guard, said that even by the standards of Mehrabadi, the girl’s family was impoverished. Able to afford only one bed for them all, most of the family slept on the floor, he said.
“Rimsha used to play with my daughter,” Bin Amin Masih said. “She didn’t speak much. But she used to laugh a lot, which had made me think that she had something wrong with her mind.”
The case against the girl turned even graver Thursday after her accuser’s attorney claimed that the government was secretly supporting her and said this would drive Muslims to take the issue “into their own hands.”
Appearing in court for the first time, lawyer Abdur Raheem raised the specter of Mumtaz Qadri, the man who gunned down a senior politician last year who’d called for reforming the blasphemy law, which has been frequently abused.
The hijacking of the case against Rimsha by organized extremists, including radical lawyers, would spell great danger for her. It could intimidate the court and put her life at further risk even if she’s freed.
“There are many Mumtaz Qadris in this country,” Raheem declared outside the court in Islamabad, after he managed to get the bail hearing for Rimsha postponed. “This (medical) report has been managed by the state, state agencies and the accused.”
Raheem alleged that the report was illegal because it was based on the orders of a civil servant and not the court. He claimed that it also went beyond its boundaries of just determining Rimsha’s age.
In an interview after the hearing in his office, adorned with a large poster of Qadri, Raheem said: “If the court is not allowed to do its work, because the state is helping the accused, then the public has no other option except to take the law into its own hands.”
Many lawyers rallied around Qadri last year after he killed Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer in public. At his court appearance, they showered him with rose petals.
“This girl is guilty,” claimed Raheem, who’s working for free. “If the state overrides the court, then God will get a person to do the job. There is so much evidence against her, a reasonable court is not in a position to find her not guilty.”
The court will hear the case again Saturday, when bail for Rimsha could be considered again.
What remains unclear about the case is why Rimsha’s neighbor suspected her and how he saw inside the bag she apparently was carrying. Also unclear is whether any burned pages were from the Quran or another book that contained religious verses.
Blasphemy allegations often are made on the flimsiest of evidence, but enraged mobs pressure the police into registering cases. In court, the alleged act of blasphemy can’t even be repeated, as that would be an act of blasphemy in itself. So verdicts are issued without hearing the main pieces of evidence.
Earlier this year, a mentally disturbed Muslim man in Bahawalpur, a city in the middle of Pakistan, was accused of blasphemy and arrested. A crowd of up to 2,000 stormed the police station and dragged him out. He then was beaten and burned alive.