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Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — Pakistani police say a Muslim cleric planted evidence to link a Christian girl to blasphemy — a new twist in a case that has fanned flames of religious tension in the country and attracted worldwide interest.
The latest development may make it easier for the girl, 14-year-old Rimsha, to be released on bail at her next court hearing. And it could yield charges of desecration of the Quran for the cleric, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, police said.
Police arrested Rimsha last month after a neighbor accused her of burning pages containing texts from the Muslim holy book, the Quran.
Rimsha had two shopping bags with her: one containing ashes and the other, the partially burned pages, police said. She had gathered the paper as fuel for cooking, authorities said.
Even though Rimsha’s lawyer said no one actually saw the girl burning the papers, the neighbor went to Chishti — the neighborhood cleric — with the bags for safekeeping as evidence.
Chishti wasn’t certain that simply burning pages with texts from the Quran would be enough to convict Rimsha on blasphemy charges, said Munir Jaffery, the investigation officer in the case.
So, the imam added two pages from the holy book itself to the bag to bolster the case, Jaffery said.
Police arrested Chishti on Saturday after three witnesses told a judge about the imam’s actions.
He was sent to jail for 14 days, accused of evidence tampering. Police are now looking into whether Chishti should also be charged with desecrating the Quran and, therefore, blasphemy, said Islamabad police spokesman Naeem Iqbal.
Chishti has denied the allegation, authorities said.
Insulting Islam provokes widespread and immediate reaction in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim nation. Its controversial blasphemy law makes the crime punishable by death. Critics have said the legislation is being used to entrap minorities.
Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, who criticized the law, was shot to death by his security guard last year. A Pakistani court then suspended the guard’s death sentence. Read further in CNN.
The cleric who was arrested on Saturday over suspicion of planting evidence against a Christian girl accused of blasphemy was produced in court on Sunday under strict security arrangements as the hearing for the blasphemy case resumed, DawnNews reported.
Imam Khalid Jadoon was produced in the court of Duty Magistrate, Judge Nasar Minallah Baloch.
Islamabad police had submitted an application to the court requesting for the remand of Khalid Jadoon.
The court remanded Jadoon into judicial custody for 14 days and ordered that the accused be produced in court after the expiry of the remand.