A Pakistani court on Tuesday ordered police to drop blasphemy charges against a 14-year-old girl, which had sparked international concern over the use of the country's controversial law. The girl was charged [Bloomberg report] under Pakistan's blasphemy law for allegedly burning pages for a Koran. She was released on bail in September after an Iman was charged for allegedly framing the young girl. The judge explained that no one had seen the girl burning the Koran. Pakistan passed a blasphemy law in 1987, which outlaws insulting either the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad. A violation of this law is punishable by imprisonment and even death. No one has been executed under this law so far. This case has sparked criticism both within Pakistan and around the world that the blasphemy law is being used to suppress Pakistan's Christian minority population.
Blasphemy laws [JURIST news archive] in Pakistan carry penalties [JURIST report] ranging from a fine to capital punishment. In August, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said that the country's blasphemy laws would not be misused to persecute religious beliefs. Zardari's comments came after the young girl's arrest. Police said after the girl's arrest that she may have Down syndrome. Blasphemy laws are currently in effect in several countries around the world. In July the US Department of State released [JURIST report] its annual International Religious Freedom Report, documenting threats to religious freedom throughout the world. The report documents current international threats to religious freedom—particularly laws that punish religious traditions and blasphemy laws that are often used to punish religious tolerance.