Pakistani girl accused of blasphemy now living in Canada
A Christian girl who was falsely accused of blasphemy in Pakistan has fled to Canada, CBC News has learned.
Rimsha Masih, 14, was charged with blasphemy in 2012 for allegedly burning pages of the Qu’ran.
Although she was acquitted, supporters say her family decided to live in hiding after continued threats.
The family made the secret journey to Canada just weeks ago – arriving at an undisclosed location in Toronto, according to Peter Bhatti, who runs a Christian organization that is helping them settle in Canada.
Bhatti says that Masih, her parents and her brother and sister had to leave Pakistan in order to have safe, secure lives.
Their journey to Canada comes after Masih’s case sparked an international outcry when she was arrested last August.
A neighbour claimed she had burned pages of the Qu’ran. Masih – said to have Down syndrome – spent 25 days in an adult prison before being freed on bail.
The incident fuelled new calls for reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which have often been used to target religious minorities and to settle personal scores.
Police believe Rimsha may have been framed by a cleric who desecrated the Qu’ran himself and then tried to make it look as if the girl did it.
Bhatti said the girl and her family have been granted special permission by the federal government to live in Canada and that they are all relieved and happy. He said the 14-year-old is thriving in her new home.
“She is doing wonderful. She is studying in school, every day, she going to school, she is learning, she is starting talking more,” he told CBC’s Laura Lynch.
Still, Bhatti refuses to say where she is, citing worries that she could still be a target for extremists.
Officials in Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office have refused to comment on Masih’s case, citing privacy concerns.