Posted on August 31, 2012

Christian Girl Accused of Blasphemy in Pakistan Must Stay in Prison After Bail Hearing Delayed

Rob Crilly, Telegraph (London), August 30, 2012

A young Christian girl accused of blasphemy in Pakistan faces spending more time in a high-security prison in Pakistan after her bail hearing was adjourned on Thursday.

Rimsha Misah has been held for almost two weeks after being accused of burning a Koran.

Blasphemy is a serious offence in Pakistan, punishable with death.

Her family have been taken into protective custody and Christians have fled their homes in fear of violent reprisals.

Rimsha’s family say she was born with Down’s syndrome and is aged 11.

However, at a bail hearing on Thursday, a lawyer acting for the man accusing Rimsha of blasphemy rejected a medical report saying that she was 14, with a lower mental age, and should be treated as a minor. He has asked for a new medical report.

It means Rimsha will remain in Adiala Prison until at least Saturday, when the hearing will resume.

The prison is notorious for holding murderers and terrorists. It is home to Mumtaz Qadri, the man who shot dead Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, last year for his campaign to reform the blasphemy laws.

Before the hearing, Rimsha’s father repeated his appeal for Pakistan’s president to intervene.

Misrek Masih said: “My young daughter has Down’s syndrome and often isn’t in control of her actions and we are now afraid for her life.

“I’m asking President Asif Ali Zardari, who has called for further attention into my daughter’s case to release her from jail. We know that the world is watching and now people from all over the world are standing with us asking for a reprieve.”

Pakistan’s Christians are frequently targeted with blasphemy allegations, often as a means of settling scores.

Two years ago, a woman called Asia Bibi was sentenced to death in a case that sparked a campaign to reform what many believe to be outdated laws.

However, Mr Taseer, one of Mrs Bibi’s most prominent supporters, was assassinated by Qadri, one of his own bodyguards.

Weeks later, Shabbaz Bhatti, the minister for minorities and a Christian, was also shot dead, killing off any prospect of reform.