09/10/2008, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Christian girl, kidnapped and converted by Muslims, returned to family

Qaiser Felix
The alleged conversion has been found to be invalid, because the girl is just 10 years old. But her sister, who was also kidnapped, has been judged to have married by her own will, because she is "more than 16 years old", although her relatives say she is only 13, and that they will appeal to the supreme court.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - The Multan bench of the Lahore high court ruled yesterday that Saba Younas, the Christian girl kidnapped together with her sister Aneela on June 26 by a group of Muslims, and forced to become a Muslim and to get married, is an adult, because she is over the age of 16. So her conversion and marriage to one of the kidnappers have been found to be "voluntary", and the request that she be returned to her Christian family has been denied.

But judge Malak Saeed Eiaz has instead given Aneela back to her family, because she is only 10 years old.

"We are at least happy over Aneela", her uncle Khalid Raheel comments to AsiaNews. "And for Saba’s custody, we will appeal to the supreme court". Aneela has now been taken to a secret location, because the Muslims who kidnapped her insist that she converted "spontaneously", and that there is a risk that her family will look for her.

"The girl told me", her uncle continues, "that in order to convince her, some of the Muslims threatened her with death, in addition to promising her expensive presents".

The two girls were kidnapped from the village of Chowk Munda, in the province of Punjab, while they were visiting their uncle. Afterward, the kidnappers stated that they had converted, and that the older one had married "of her own will".

On July 14, the Christian parents asked the Muzaffargarh Sessions Court for custody of their daughters, but the tribunal responded that, since they had converted to Islam, they can no longer live with their Christian parents. This verdict was overturned by the high court in Aneela's case, because she is only 10 years old. Her relatives say that Saba is only 13, as shown by official documents, but the court has accepted expert testimony that she is over 16 years old, and therefore capable of marrying "of her own will".

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