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  • » 08/29/2012, 00.00

    PAKISTAN - ITALY

    As Rimsha Masih waits for her fate to be decided, Christian activists campaign for her release



    Islamabad court will decide on lawyers' application for release. The opinion of a medical commission that examined the girl will be decisive. Its findings indicate that she is a minor with unspecified mental challenges. Hundreds of people sign a petition for her release sponsored by a Pakistani association in Italy.

    Islamabad (AsiaNews) - An Islamabad court will decide tomorrow whether to accept a request by lawyers representing Rimsha Masih to release the mentally challenged Christian girl in prison since 16 August on blasphemy charges. The case has attracted worldwide attention and many organisations have launched protest and solidarity campaigns on her behalf.

    On the margins of this case, the fate of hundreds of Christian families who fled their neighbourhood on the outskirts of the capital for fear of retaliation by Muslim extremists remains uncertain. Some of them in fact have not yet found a safe haven but cannot go back to their homes.

    Rimsha Masih was accused of blasphemy on the basis of the 'black law' because she burnt some pages on which were printed some Qur'anic verses. According to the Pakistan Penal Code, she could get life in prison. It is feared that extremists elements close to the Taliban could retaliate, something they have done in the past when they carried out extrajudicial executions of people accused of blasphemy.

    The court is expected to decide whether to release the girl or not after reviewing the findings of an evaluation carried out by a medical commission established for that purpose. The latter found that the girl is under the age of 14 and with reduced mental faculties. So far, it is unclear what her mental disability might be.

    In the meantime, the Association of Pakistani Christians has launched a campaign for Rimsha's release with hundreds of people signing up around the world. The plea will eventually be presented to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

    Led by Mobeen Shahid, professor at the Pontifical Lateran University, activists in Rome plan to show their solidarity by launching an initiative directed at Pakistan's highest authorities.

    The initiative will also include a demand to "revise or abolish" the country's blasphemy law, which has created hundreds of innocent victims since it was introduced in 1986.

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    See also

    27/04/2007 PAKISTAN
    Mob and police torture Catholic man accused of blasphemy
    Without any evidence angry Muslims torture Sattar Masih, 28, for allegedly blaspheming against Muhammad. Police moves in but only to arrest him. He was supposed to get married the following day.

    27/11/2006 PAKISTAN
    Two Christian men sentenced to ten years in prison for "blasphemy"
    Despite the lack of evidence a court in Faisalabad condemns two Catholic men for burning some pages of the Qur'an. For their attorney the verdict was influenced by Muslim extremists.

    18/01/2007 PAKISTAN
    Christian charged with blasphemy freed after four months
    Shahid Masih, 17, was accused with ripping the pages of a sacred book. After months in solitary confinement, the court releases him for lack of evidence.

    16/09/2009 PAKISTAN
    Sialkot: police charges crowd at funeral for young man killed in prison for blasphemy
    Police attack mourners during the burial ceremony. Witnesses say police used tear gas against the crowd, injuring some and arresting others. Police claims it had to move in to prevent “further disturbances”. Catholic leaders renew call for the repeal of the blasphemy laws.

    13/10/2008 PAKISTAN
    A Christian man and his daughter arrested, almost lynched for blasphemy
    Rumours spread in a village near Faisalabad that a Christian girl ripped some pages from the Qur’an. But more than one version of the facts is making the rounds of the village. Anti-Christian intolerance is growing in the country and a Pakistani lawmaker says the “accusations are a fabrication” to persecute Christians.



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