Rimsha and family living in Canada

AP
Rimsha Masih was falsely accused of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan

Rimsha Masih, the teenage Pakistani girl who once faced the possibility of the death penalty because she was accused of insulting Islam, is living in Canada with her family, a Canadian religious-rights organisation says.

Peter Bhatti, executive director of International Christian Voice, told World Watch Monitor on Saturday that Rimsha and her immediate family are settled in the Toronto area, with the permission of the Canadian government. They have been in Canada for about a month, he said.

Rimsha was arrested in August 2012 and accused of burning the pages of some Islamic texts. She was jailed after angry crowds threatened to burn Christian homes in the sector of Islamabad where her family lived, according to press reports at the time. Her detention sparked international outcry about the application of Pakistan's anti-blasphemy laws, and prompted Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to order an investigation of the case. She faced the prospect of being tried as an adult until the court ruled that she is a minor.

The case against Rimsha collapsed after police were informed the cleric of the mosque in Rimsha's area had planted the burned pages on her. Pakistani courts eventually threw out the charges against the girl, citing a lack of evidence.

Bhatti led a delegation of International Christian Voice executives to an August meeting in Canada with Pakistan's consul general to "express the feelings of Pakistani Canadian Christians regarding Rimsha Masih's case," according to the organisation's website.

Peter Bhatti's older brother, Paul Bhatti, is Pakistan's Minister of National Harmony and Minority Affairs. Peter's younger brother, Shahbaz Bhatti, was Pakistan's federal minister for minority affairs, and a high-profile critic of the way the country's anti-blasphemy laws were being used to marginalise Pakistan's religious minorities, including Christians. Shahbaz was assassinated in 2011; a letter left at the scene said those who try to change Pakistan's blasphemy laws would be killed.

Peter Bhatti, now a Canadian citizen, said he has lived in Canada for more than 10 years. He said he approached Jason Kenny, Canada's immigration minister, to assist with the relocation of Rimsha's family.

Glenn Johnson, spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, told World Watch Monitor on Friday that Canada's privacy laws forbid release of details about individual cases.

Bhatti said Rimsha and her family now are living in a three-bedroom apartment. She is enrolled in school, he said.

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