‘Blasphemy’ girl’s case adjourned

SENSITIVE SUBJECT::The court has not yet decided whether to accept a medical assessment which said that the girl appears to be underage and mentally subnormal

AFP, ISLAMABAD

Sun, Sep 02, 2012 - Page 4

A young Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy must wait until at least tomorrow to learn if she will be given bail, after a judge adjourned her case yesterday amid doubts over legal paperwork.

Rimsha has been in custody since she was arrested in a poor Islamabad suburb more than two weeks ago, accused of burning papers containing Koran verses, in breach of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Judge Muhammad Azam Khan adjourned the case to tomorrow and asked police to investigate a bail application made on Rimsha’s behalf after prosecutors claimed paperwork had not been signed by the girl or her mother.

Speaking to reporters outside the court, Rimsha’s lawyer, Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, accused prosecutors and lawyers for her accuser of delaying tactics.

“The medical report has declared her an underage person with low IQ. How can she commit blasphemy? She is innocent and should be released,” he said.

A medical report earlier this week said Rimsha appeared to be about 14 years old, which would make her a minor, and that she had a mental age below her actual age, but the court has yet to decide whether to accept the assessment.

Some reports have said Rimsha has Down’s syndrome and her case has prompted concern from Western governments and anger from rights groups, who warn the blasphemy legislation is often abused to settle personal vendettas.

Blasphemy is a very sensitive subject in the Pakistan, where 97 percent of the 180 million population are Muslims, and allegations of insulting Islam often prompt a furious public reaction.