Cleric who falsely accused Rimsha Masih acquitted

Rimsha Masih and her family have been granted asylum in PakistanAP

The cleric who led false charges of blasphemy against a Christian teenage girl in Pakistan has been acquitted, the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) reports.

The organisation has condemned the court's decision to throw out the case against Khalid Chishti, who accused Rimsha in August last year only to later be accused himself of planting evidence against her.

Although Rimsha was 14 years of age, she was deemed by medical officials to have a lower mental age. The accusation against her caused dozens of families to flee from their village of Mehrabadi. Rimsha and her family were granted asylum in Canada.

The case against her was condemned by the international community and sparked a debate within Pakistan about reform of the country's blasphemy laws, which carry a death sentence.

The BPCA reports that Chishti was acquitted of all charges on Saturday after six out of eight eyewitnesses retracted their testimonies.

Chairman of the BPCA, Wilson Chowdhry said the court's decision "illustrates the impunity that exists for those that use Pakistan's discriminatory laws for personal gain or simply to persecute minorities".

He said there were suspicions that the eyewitnesses had retracted their statements under duress.

"If Pakistan wishes to rid itself of the perceived corruption and injustice that has created global notoriety for the state, the Government will need to improve the rule of law and protect better those who stand for justice," he said.

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