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Pakistani Christian girl to be tried as juvenile for blasphemy

Sapa-dpa | 2012-09-24 11:29:26.0
Security officials surrounding Rimsha Masih, (C, green scarf) a Christian girl accused of blasphemy, move her to a helicopter after her release from Adyala jail in Rawalpindi September 8, 2012.
Image by: STRINGER/PAKISTAN / REUTERS

A Pakistani judge ordered on Monday a teenage Christian girl accused of blasphemy to stand trial in a juvenile court.

Rimsha Masih is thought to be around 14 years old, but her mental age appears to be lower due to learning disabilities, according to a medical report.

Her lawyer Tahir Naveed Chaudhry told dpa the juvenile laws prescribed a maximum seven-year prison sentence, not the life sentence that could be handed down to an adult convict.

Judge Jawad Abbas Hassan adjourned the case till October 1, when prosecutors have been asked to submit a new charge sheet.

Chaudhry said his client might not face trial at all, as a higher court was requested Monday to terminate the charges against Masih.

"Our position is very strong as there is no evidence against Rishma (Masih)," he said. "The (Islamabad) high court will hopefully give its ruling in next few days and in the meantime the lower court's proceedings will be stayed."

A police document presented before the lower court on Saturday said investigators found no evidence or witness against Masih, who was accused by one of her Muslim neighbors of burning holy Islamic scriptures.

Investigation Officer Munir Jaffery, however, accused local imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti of deliberately tearing out pages of the Holy Koran and planting them on Masih.

Police detained the Christian girl on August 16 after a group of Muslims surrounded her house in a slum neighbourhood of Islamabad. A court ordered her release on bail earlier this month.

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