Pakistani Cleric Faces Possible Blasphemy Charge

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press
Muslim cleric accused of trying to frame a Christian girl

Pakistani police officers escort blindfolded Muslim cleric Khalid Chishti to court in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012. In the latest twist in a religiously charged case that has focused attention on the country's harsh blasphemy laws, Pakistani police arrested Chishti who they say planted evidence in the case of a Christian girl accused of blasphemy. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Pakistani police say they're investigating whether a Muslim cleric who allegedly tried to frame a Christian girl for blasphemy should be charged with insulting Islam himself and potentially face life in prison.

Khalid Chisti was arrested Saturday after a member of his mosque accused him of stashing pages of a Quran in a Christian girl's bag to make it seem like she burned Islam's holy book. He allegedly planted the evidence to push Christians out of his neighborhood in Islamabad. He has denied the allegations.

Human rights activists have long criticized Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, saying they are used to persecute non-Muslims and settle personal vendettas. They have hailed Chisti's arrest as unprecedented and hope it will prevent false blasphemy accusations in the future.

More immediately, they have called for the release of the Christian girl, who has been held in prison for over two weeks.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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