06/13/2008, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Mentally disturbed Christian girl, 12, raped by group of Muslims

by Qaiser Felix
The three are accused of attacking a twelve-year-old girl suffering from mental disturbances. Her father did not immediately report the crime because of threats; thanks to the support of Christian activists, he is now asking for justice. The girl will be cared for at a centre of religious sisters specialised in psychological illnesses.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Last May 25, a group of three Muslims allegedly raped a girl with psychological problems in Lahore.  At first the family, who are Christian, did not want to file charges because of the threats and pressure against them; later, thanks in part to support received from two Christian lawyers, they presented themselves to the authorities, and the three suspects were arrested.

Khalil Tahir, a Christian lawyer and president of the Adal Trust - an NGO that offers free legal assistance to the poor - will represent Elishba, 12 years old and affected by mental disturbances, during the trial: "The little girl", the lawyer tells AsiaNews, "comes from a very poor Christian family: they live in a rented home, and the father is a manual labourer.  Last May 25, Niamat Masih, returning home from work, discovered that his daughter was not at home.  He immediately went out looking for her, but could not find her.  Passing by a house not far from his own, broken down and with no doors, he heard some noises coming from inside".  At that very moment, a young Muslim - Muhammad Badshaw, one of the members of the "pack" - appeared in the doorway, and when he saw Elishba's father, he ran away.  "After entering the house", the lawyer continues, "Masih saw two other young men run away, and then found his daughter lying on the floor, unconscious and with her clothing torn.  After returning home, at first he thought of filing charges, but he failed to do so because of the threats he received and because of the high costs of a trial".

The support he received from Khalil and from Kamran Michael, the local government official for human rights and minorities, convinced the father to denounce the crime and have the three arrested; the family was also assigned a police escort to protect them. Khalil Tahir stresses that "medical examinations revealed that the girl had been gang raped", that still today "she has not completely recovered", but says that he is "optimistic" that "the family may receive justice in court".  After her initial treatment, Elishba will be sent to a care centre in Lahore, run by religious sisters and specialised in the treatment of patients with mental problems.

Kamran Michael emphasises the difficult conditions of the "Christian minority", which is subjected to violence of this kind "because of the extreme poverty in which it lives.  We will make sure that our cry of alarm is heard, so that these brutal attacks may not be repeated, during the next meeting of the Punjab Assembly".

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