CANADA

Blasphemy

Blasphemy case girl escapes Pakistan and moves with family to Canada

She flees to Canada after going into hiding following false claims she burned Koran

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 July, 2013, 3:36am

A young Christian girl accused of blasphemy in Pakistan has fled with her family to Canada.

Rimsha Masih was arrested in August in Islamabad after a Muslim cleric accused her of burning the Koran.

The cleric was later found to have fabricated evidence and the girl was acquitted.

But Masih and her family had to spend months in hiding in Pakistan, where mobs have been known to attack and kill people accused of blasphemy.

An official medical report at the time of the case put her age at 14, although some of her supporters said she was as young as 11.

Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said he had been following the case and was prompted to act when a Pakistani contact asked him in January if the family could move there.

"I said, 'Absolutely, if they could get her out,'" Kenney said. "So a number of people did some very dangerous, delicate work to extricate her and her family from Pakistan and we provided the necessary visas."

Kenney said he had instructed immigration officials to process the family's applications for permanent residency under humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

It's rare for Kenney to comment on individual immigration cases, but he said the family gave their consent to have their story made public.

Kenney said he met the family in Toronto in April, a few weeks after they arrived.

The blasphemy case received widespread attention in part because of the girl's age and questions about her mental abilities.

She was cleared after cleric Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti was accused of desecrating the Koran himself and tampering with the evidence against her.

Even though the case against her was thrown out, people accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are often subject to vigilante justice.

Two prominent politicians who discussed changes to the blasphemy laws were killed.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse