Pakistani Christian girl still held

By August 31, 2012

Pakistan (MNN) — A bail hearing has been adjourned until Saturday of a young Pakistani girl accused of blasphemy.

Rimsha Masih was taken into custody a few weeks ago after an angry mob surrounded her home accusing her of burning pages with verses of the Quran written on them.

Masih, who's reported to be about 14-years-old, is also believed to be mentally disabled.

According to Voice of America, a lawyer representing the accuser challenged a medical report released earlier this week that said the girl was 14-years-old, but mentally younger than that. The girl's lawyer, Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, hopes the judge would settle the matter during a bail hearing set for tomorrow.

Human-rights groups are asking for the girl to be released immediately. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Prominent Muslim clerics in Pakistan and the country's president are pressing for a fair and impartial investigation into her case.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws have long been used to harass religious minorities and settle personal vendettas. Amnesty International and other human rights groups called for Pakistan to reform their blasphemy laws and protect Masih and her family against possible intimidation or attack.

Christian leaders in the government have been targets of attacks. Last year, Pakistan's Minister of Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti–the only Christian member of the federal Cabinet, was killed by an assassin in Islamabad. And Salman Taseer, Punjab province's governor, was killed by one of his bodyguards for his opposition to the blasphemy law.

Christians are the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Pakistan, making up about 5% of the population.

The United States has called Masih's case "deeply disturbing" and urged Pakistan's government to protect not just its religious minority citizens, but also women and girls.


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