The case against a Pakistani Christian girl potentially facing a death sentence for allegedly burning sacred Islamic texts has been thrown into doubt after her local mullah was arrested on accusations of tampering with evidence in order to frame her.
Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti appeared in court on Sunday after witnesses claimed to have seen him adding pages of the Qur'an to a bag of ashes Rimsha Masih had been carrying away for disposal last month in order to strengthen the case against her.
Although many of the cases brought under the country's much criticised blasphemy laws are thought to be spurious, the Rimsha case is thought to be the first time in the more than two decades since the laws were introduced that someone has been arrested for fabricating evidence.
But while the dramatic turn of events delighted the girl's supporters, a prosecution lawyer insisted he would press ahead with the case against her.
Last month a local man, Malik Hammad, spotted the girl with the ashes and accused her of burning a prayer book that included passages from the Qur'an, a particularly provocative form of blasphemy which can carry the death penalty.
Police arrested the girl amid uproar in the neighbourhood of Mehrabadi, a poor area on the outskirts of Islamabad. Locals had been whipped into a frenzy by Chishti, who reportedly showed the burned pages to mosque-goers at evening prayers and led a crowd of people to Rimsha's house.
But after two weeks of controversy during which the case has been criticised by both human rights groups and even hardline religious conservatives, three of Chishti's deputies have come forward to implicate the mullah.
Hafiz Mohammad Zubair told Geo TV that he witnessed Chishti putting two pages of the Qu'ran into a plastic bag of ashes in order to strengthen the case against the girl.