03/29/2008, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Clashes between Christians and the police, over the torture of a Christian girl

by Qaiser Felix
Farzana, aged 16, is accused of stealing from the Muslim family for which she works. The police arrested her, tortured her, and forced her to confess. Her father and three brothers were then arrested. 500 Christians have taken to the streets to protest, and the police are rounding them up. Now they are asking for justice.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - At least 500 Christians protested yesterday in Lahore against the police who arrested, tortured, and falsely accused of theft a 16-year-old Christian girl, Farzana.  The protesters, holding wooden crosses, tried to reach the office of the superintendent of police, but officers confronted and clubbed them, and arrested eight protesters, jailing them for two hours, according to a press release sent to AsiaNews from Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan.

The deputy superintendent of female police, Asmi Khan, has assured the officials of the SLMP that Farzana will be tried fairly and will be released if found not guilty.

Farzana worked as a maid for three months at the house of some Muslims, for 500 rupees (8 dollars) per month. She had been on leave because the homeowner, Muhammad Abid, and his family were out of town for a few days. On March 27, they called her and she returned to work.  But there the police arrested her and took her to the station, where Abid was already waiting.  The police tortured the girl and forced her to confess.

The same day, at 11 p.m., the police searched Ferzana's home and arrested her elderly father and three brothers, whom they also tortured.  The following day, on March 28, when a crowd protested the injustice and the police brutality, the father and brothers were released.

Ferzana tells members of the SLMP that "when the police arrested me, they started to beat me on the road and abused me. At that very moment I couldn’t understand that what is going on. When police took me to the police station Muhammad Abid was already present there. The police brutally tormented me in front of Muhammad Abid and forced me to confess the stealing".

SLMP officials denounce that there is no proof of the theft, and not even a formal accusation against the girl.  They say the police are merely prejudiced against an innocent Christian girl, whom they have arrested and tortured.  They are asking for the authorities to intervene, and for a serious investigation of the theft.

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