08/30/2012, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Islamabad, Islamic leaders challenge medical report, call for punishment of Rimsha Masih

by Jibran Khan
Postponed to 1 September - the deadline for custody - a decision on the release of a minor mentally disabled Christian, indicted for blasphemy. In the court, legal experts and Muslim scholars have challenged the Commission's report. The girl is blasphemous and must be condemned. Fears for her safety. Protests by Christians.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - A court in Islamabad, under pressure from religious leaders in the courtroom, has postponed to September 1 the trial for blasphemy against Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl of 13 who is being held in prison for burning pages of the Koran . The Islamist front, through a lawyer, presented a report that disputes the results of the medical committee, who declared her a minor with - unspecified - mental disabilities. The tension was palpable in the court, increasing security concerns for Rimsha's safety, whose life now appears increasingly endangered.

Inside sources report that tomorrow Judges will review the report submitted by counsel for the Muslim religious leaders, who claim Rimsha is 14 and not mentally disturbed, so she must answer for her actions. On September 1st the judges will announce their decision, in a court - most likely - reinforced for safety reasons. According to procedure the accused must be present at the trial, at the end of her period of preventive detention, which expires September 1st. However, the emerging threats to Rimsha Masih's security are giving rise to fears that fanatic or extremist groups are planning to kill her.

Rimsha Masih is charged under the "black law" for having burned pages printed with verses from the Koran. She could face up to life in prison and retaliation from elements close to the fundamentalist Taliban.  They have repeatedly carried out extra-judicial murders of persons indicted for blasphemy.

The judges have to decide whether to grant her release, after a court appointed medical board determined that the girl is under 14 years of age and shows a mental age lower than her chronological age (see AsiaNews 28/08 / 2012 Blasphemy, Rimsha Masih, minor with mental problems. Bishop of Islamabad: a positive outcome). However no details are given about the nature of her mental disabilities.

Meanwhile, outside the court in Islamabad Christian activists, groups and movements demonstrated to demand the girl's release. The Avaaz organization has launched an international campaign calling for Rimsha Masih's release.  The child has become an icon in spite of herself just as Asia Bibi,  in the fight against the infamous blasphemy law in Pakistan. About fifty members of Life for All brandished placards with the inscription: "More than 20 thousand people in the world demand freedom for Rimsha Masih".

 

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