Fears Abound over the Safety of Freed Pakistani Girl

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A young Christian girl has been released on bail after two weeks in jail on charges of blasphemy for allegedly ripping out pages from the Koran and burning them.

Rimsha Masih, 14, and reportedly mentally challenged, was arrested after a mob of angry Muslims accused her of insulting Islam by burning a Koran, a crime punishable by life in prison.

The judge set bail at the equivalent of more than $10,000. Human rights groups hailed the release as a major victory since bail is rarely granted in blasphemy cases.

Masih left the prison under tight security, a blanket over her face to protect her identity.

"We are in touch with her family, and her mother was very happy and she was delighted after hearing the news," Dr. Paul Bhatti, special adviser to Pakistan's prime minister, said.

"She was praying and she said, 'I was sure that justice will be done because my daughter was innocent,'" Bhatti said.

Although Masih's release is a step forward for Pakistani human rights, questions remain about her safety.

Christians in the family's neighborhood celebrated the girl's release. However, some of her former neighbors say they don't think her family will ever return to their former home.

Government officials disagree.

"I don't think she will have so much problems on security when everybody believes she is innocent," Bhatti said. "And I don't think any Pakistani will decide to kill her or, I mean, hurt her."

Masih's attorneys are hopeful local authorities will drop the charges altogether after the arrest of a local imam.

The Muslim cleric is accused of planting the evidence against her in an attempt to stir up violence against local Christians. He now faces blasphemy charges of his own.

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