Three witnesses whose testimony could absolve a 14-year-old Pakistani girl facing life in prison have changed their statements.
It's the latest twist in the case of Rimsha Masih, a Christian teenager who was charged more than a month ago under Pakistan's blasphemy laws for allegedly burning pages of Islam's holy book for cooking fuel. She has denied the charges.
The three witnesses initially told police they saw Khalid Jadoon Chishti, a Muslim cleric, tear pages out of a copy of the Quran and put them with police evidence that led to the charges against Rimsha.
But they recanted those statements on Monday at a bail hearing for the cleric, according to the imam's lawyer, Wajid Ali Gilani. A fourth witness stood by his initial statement.
The witnesses are a critical part of the police investigation that determined last week that the imam framed the teen. Based on that investigation and a lack of witnesses, her lawyers are now appealing to have the blasphemy charges dismissed.
The teen's case has sparked international outcry against the Pakistani government, with some saying the blasphemy laws are used to settle scores and persecute religious minorities.
Islamabad's police chief accused the three witnesses of lying to the court on Monday, and said investigators never pressured the witnesses when they gave their initial statements against the cleric.
"If they have changed their statements, they are just lying," Chief Bin Yamin said.
Police arrested Rimsha in August after her neighbor accused her of burning Quran pages to for cooking fuel, investigators said. The neighbor began to shout in protest, drawing a crowd that grew angry.
Some neighbors said the teenager was beaten. Others said she ran back home and locked herself inside. When police arrived, they arrested her.This case keeps getting more and more twisted. However, what is really twisted is the fact that blasphemy is still a basis for imprisoning (or even executing) a person in the 21st century. I've often wondered why Muslims cannot simply allow Allah to execute vengeance on people who burn his holy book or draw pictures of his prophet.