13 Sep 2012

Family of accused girl threatened with fire

6:46 am on 13 September 2012

A Pakistani girl accused of blasphemy is in hiding, along with her family after a Muslim mob threatened to kill them.

Rimsha Masih, 11, was accused of burning pages of the Koran by an Imam, who was later accused of planting the burnt pages in the girl's bag himself.

She was released on bail on Saturday, but the family say their neighbours threatened to burn them alive inside their home.

Speaking to the BBC under tight security, Rimsha's father said he feared for their lives.

"They were saying: 'We are going to burn you inside the house,'" he said. "'We are not going to spare you or your kids. Then we will burn the homes of the other Christians.'

"Even after we left the area they were saying: 'Bring the girl and the family to us. We want to kill them.'"

The BBC reports the family has been in hiding for weeks, moving from place to place under tight security. The government promised to protect them, but they said past history made them fearful.

"We are worried that we can be attacked and killed any time," Rimsha's father said. "Before, when cases like this have arisen, people who were accused were killed."

Protective custody

The family insist that Rimsha did not burn any Islamic textbooks.

They say Rimsha who is illiterate - like the rest of the family - has always been slow.

Rimsha's parents said she was sitting in their home on the outskirts of Islamabad when a crowd gathered outside, claiming she had burnt pages from an Islamic textbook.

The family said Rimsha survived by locking herself in the bathroom. She was later taken into protective custody.

According to Christian leaders, mobs have killed more than 30 people suspected of blasphemy in the past 20 years.