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Urgent Pakistan ‘blasphemy’ girl being favoured

August 30, 2012
ISLAMABAD: Doctors and officials are “favouring” a young Pakistani Christian girl charged with blasphemy after allegedly burning papers containing Koranic verses, the lawyer for her accuser claimed today.

The girl, named Rimsha, has been held since August 16 on suspicion of desecrating the Muslim holy book, an offence that can carry a life prison sentence under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws.

A medical report earlier this week said Rimsha was around 14 years old – her age had been in dispute – and appeared to be “uneducated” with a mental age below her true age.

But after a brief hearing in the case today, which Rimsha did not attend, Rao Abdur Raheem, the lawyer representing her accuser, rejected the doctors’ assessment.

“The victim has admitted that she burned a chapter of the Koran,” he told reporters outside court in Islamabad.

“The doctors are favouring the victim and the state is also supporting her.”

Raheem also objected to the medical examination because it was carried out a day before the court formally requested it. Judge Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan adjourned the case to Saturday to seek clarification on the report.

Rimsha’s case has prompted concern from Western governments and the Vatican and anger from human rights campaigners, who have warned the laws are often used to settle personal vendettas.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive subject in Pakistan, where 97 percent of the 180 million population are Muslims, and allegations of desecrating the Koran or insulting Islam often provoke public fury.

In July a mob of more than 2,000 snatched a mentally unstable man from a police station, beat him to death and torched his body after he was accused of burning pages from a Koran.

Last year two leading politicians were assassinated after raising their voices against the blasphemy legislation, which includes the death penalty for insulting the prophet Mohammad.

-AFP


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