» 08/31/2012 PAKISTAN Islamabad: Rimsha Masih remanded. Paul Bhatti optimistic for release by Jibran Khan This morning, the judge granted another 14 days to investigators to close the investigation. APMA representatives "usual procedure"; preparations ahead of tomorrow’s hearing. Bishop Rufin Anthony, worried about child’s health and safety.
- "I'm optimistic about the possibility that Rimsha Masih will be freed"
and if she is not released tomorrow at
the scheduled bail hearing, it is very likely that it "will be decided
early next week", says Paul Bhatti, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister for National
Harmony in comments to AsiaNews, on
the story of the little Pakistani girl arrested - and now on trial - for
blasphemy. The Catholic politician who holds a ministerial post explains that
"we immediately set to work for her release," but now we must "respect
the time of justice and let the procedures take their course." He added that
President Asif Ali Zardari "agrees" on the need to release the child
and is unsparing towards those associations and groups, who by exploiting Rimsha's
drama are looking for publicity and money: "I want to clarify that the family is in the custody of the Ministry for
Harmony and under my responsibility as head of the department. The father has
spoken to no-one outside of me and the institutions involved, so these petitions
that are circulating to collect signatures with a letter from Misrek Masih to the
head of state are absolutely false. "
The Islamabad court judges have extended the remand for Rimsha Masih, a
Christian girl suffering from mental problems accused of blasphemy for having
desecrated some pages containing verses of the Koran, for 14 days. This
morning, the child made a surprise appearance in court, at the end of 14 days
pre-trial detention pending the closing of investigations on the matter. The
judge justified the extension to allow police time to present the charge sheet
on the next hearing in two weeks. Tomorrow, however, the same court shall
decide her lawyer's request for her release. In fact the lawyers promised that
if, as they expect, bail is not granted, they will take the battle to the High
Masih is charged under the "black law" for having burned pages
printed with verses from the Koran. Under the law she could face up to life in
prison and there are fears of retaliation from elements close to the
fundamentalist Taliban, which have repeatedly carried out the extra-judicial murders
of persons indicted for blasphemy.
Speaking to AsiaNews about the
judges' decision to extend her pre-trial detention, the bishop of
Islamabad-Rawalpindi Msgr. Rufin Anthony said that "it is sad to see the
little girl still behind bars." The prelate added that humanitarian
organizations are galvanising "a huge effort" for her cause, and
"we are with them. We are concerned about the health of Rimsha and her security."
For the representatives of the All
Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), a movement founded by the Minister Shahbaz
Bhatti, killed by Islamic extremists, today's verdict is "normal
procedure" and they add: "The goal is the hearing tomorrow" . Even
Haroon Barkat Masih, president of Life
for All and Masihi Foundation,
and Mehboob Alamof the Ephlal Development Foundation strongly
criticize the judges' decision.