NEWS

Pakistan Blasphemy Case: Girl Arrested For 'Burning Quran' Is 14-Years-Old, Doctors Say

28/08/2012 15:10 | Updated 12 November 2012

A Christian girl detained in Pakistan accused of burning pages of the Quran is 14 years old, and has a mental age of much less, doctors have said.

Initially it was reported the girl had Down's Syndrome and was thought to be 11 or 12. Details of the girl's circumstances are still unclear, with a man claiming to be the girl's father releasing an open letter through human rights group Avaaz asking if she can be pardoned.

The girl, known as Rimsha Masih, was arrested on blasphemy charges in Islamabad last week after she was reportedly seen in public holding burnt pages containing Koranic verses. Chaudhry will now apply for her case to be heard in the juvenile courts.

Her lawyer Tahir Naveed Chaudhry said the girl was "weeping and crying", AP reported, when he visited her in prison over the weekend.

Since the incident reports have emerged of hundreds of Christian families fleeing Pakistan in fear.

According to the Washington Post around 600 Christians have fled the capital in fear following Rimsha's arrest.

However others in the Christian community have protested Rimsha's treatment.

"Rimsha has been sent to jail without any proof. We demand this law should be repealed, people are misusing it. And Rimsha should be released immediately," Bishop Arshad Khokhar said, according to al Jazeera.

Allama Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of the All Pakistan Ulema Council, a group of Muslim scholars spoke out in support of the girl on Tuesday, saying:

"The law of the jungle is taking over now and anybody can be accused of anything.

"If she has been falsely accused, her accuser should be arrested and punished."

Pakistan's Minister for National Harmony, Paul Bhatti, told the BBC she should be released, saying: "The police were initially reluctant to arrest her, but they came under a lot of pressure from a very large crowd who were threatening to burn down Christian homes."

A police officer involved in the case, in Pakistan's capital Islamabad, said the accused girl had told him she had no idea there were pages of the Quran inside the papers she had burnt.

Qasim Niazi said the girl was illiterate and had not attended school, although there conflicting reports as to her mental state. He also told CNN 150 people had gathered in a part of town where the Christian population is based and threatened to burn down their houses.

He said: "The mob wanted to burn the girl to give her a lesson." He added families in the area had fled in fear."

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