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Pakistani Police Arrest Cleric In Christian Girl's Blasphemy Case

Pakistani policemen escort Imam Khalid Chishti (blindfolded) upon his arrival at a court in Islamabad on September 2.
Authorities in Pakistan have arrested a Muslim cleric who allegedly framed a young Christian girl arrested last month under the country's controversial blasphemy law.

Witnesses said Imam Khalid Chishti was seen tearing pages from a Koran and placing them in a bag belonging to the girl that already contained burned papers.

Muslim neighbors in the girl's home village outside Islamabad later accused her of burning the Islamic texts, a crime that under Pakistani law can carry a punishment of life in prison or even the death penalty.

The cleric's arrest could lead to the girl's release from prison and is likely to stir fresh debate about the blasphemy law, which critics say discriminates against the country's religious minorities.

The case has proven especially controversial because the girl is believed to be in her early teens and mentally handicapped.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters