Pakistan: Rimsha Masih Hearing Delayed After Medical Report Challenged

Source:          www.assistnews.net

Date:              August 30, 2012


By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

 

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- The bail hearing that was held today (Thursday, August 30, 2012) for Rimsha Masih, the young Christian girl accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, has been delayed until Saturday, September 1, after her accuser, an imam, challenged a medical report that determined that she was a juvenile and mentally impaired.

Rimsha-Masih

Rimsha Masih

On Monday Rimsha was taken from prison to hospital for tests to determine how old she was, a senior doctor told AFP, after conflicting reports about her age. Around 120 uniformed police officers guarded the hospital, the doctor said.

The medics' report said that based on factors including her height, build and teeth, Rimsha appeared to be "approximately 14 years", and gave details of her apparent mental abilities.

"She appears uneducated and her mental age appears below her chronological age," the single-page report said.

Rimsha's lawyer Tahir Naveed Chaudhry said they had applied to have her case proceed under juvenile law.

At a brief hearing in the case on Tuesday, Judge Raja Jawad Hassan adjourned proceedings until Thursday after defense lawyers submitted a bail application, then this was moved forward to the new date.

Rimsha PROTEST

Protestors ouside the court

Rimsha Masih was arrested earlier this month on charges of blasphemy for allegedly burning pages with text from the Qur'an. Following conflicting reports about her age and mental condition, doctors who examined Rimsha earlier this week determined that she is around 14 years old and mentally impaired. Her case was subsequently transferred to the juvenile court, however her accuser disputes the findings.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide told the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net) that meanwhile, yesterday at a meeting of the Special Group set up to monitor Rimsha's case, which was formed at a joint consultative session of the Pakistan Interfaith League (PIL) and All-Pakistan Ulema Council (APUC), Pakistan's leading coalition of Islamic clerics, the PIL chairman Sajid Ishaq urged its members to avoid bias and observe the case with a level head and cool mind.

Ishaq also called for immediate steps to be taken to assist the large numbers of Christians from Rimsha's neighborhood, who have fled the area for fear of reprisal attacks in the aftermath of the blasphemy allegation.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, "This delay is extremely frustrating and prolongs Rimsha's ordeal and separation from her family. The validity of the blasphemy accusation rests on these questions of age and mental condition, but reports of those who have met Rimsha leave little doubt of her confusion over the whole affair. The cruel decision to draw out even the bail hearing in this way is a reflection of the mindsets of those supporting the accusation.

"We welcome the ongoing intervention of the APUC and PIL and hope that the judge in Rimsha's case will be free to consider the question of bail and the validity of the whole accusation, without undue pressure or intimidation."

attorney speaking

Complaint's attorney speaking outside the court with Shamim Masih (back to his left) looking on

Attending the court appearance was Shamim Masih, an ANS Pakistan correspondent and human rights campaigner who told us that the hearing was very short - it began at 9:30 AM and "lasted just a few minutes" and then adjourned until September 1.

Mr. Masih said that the complainant's attorney, Rao Abdul Rehman, did not want to accept the medical board's assertion that the girl was about 14 years old and was mentally impaired and demanded that the court appoint another doctor's panel to examine her.

"He also opposed the bail request for her release claiming that she knew what she was doing," said Mr. Masih. "Outside the court, Mr. Rehman told the large media contingent which included many Pakistan TV channels, that he would defend this case and would not let the girl be released.

"The attorney went on to claim that she had burnt the Koranic verses and must be punished."

He added, "The girl is being held in a maximum security prison after an angry mob accused her of desecrating pages of the Koran. But her supporters say she has been wrongly accused. Also her parents are being taken care of by the All Pakistan Minority Association (APMA).

According to Dawn.com (http://dawn.com), "Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive subject in the nation of 180 million people, 97 per cent of whom are Muslims, and those convicted of defaming Islam or desecrating the Quran can face life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

"Human rights activists claim the laws are often used to settle personal vendettas and last year two prominent politicians were assassinated apparently for speaking out against the legislation."

Now the British Pakistani Christian Association is arranging a series of protests across the UK to protest this and other blasphemy cases in Pakistan.

So here we have again another incredible situation for a Christian, this time affecting a young girl who is apparently totally bemused how this situation has escalated into a worldwide notoriety after going through her community to find to some paper that could be used for cooking in her poverty-stricken home. Some reports says that she may have unknowingly picked the pages of the Qu'ran from a waste dump and because she cannot read, would not understand what it was.

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