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Christian Girl Jailed for Blasphemy Determined to be 14 Years Old

Child "Suffering from Trauma" in Pakistani Prison

Washington, D.C. (August 28, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a Christian girl arrested for blasphemy two weeks ago in Pakistan has been determined a minor according to a recent medical review. The child, being held in Rawalpindi prison, is reportedly “in a state of shock” and does not understand the charges brought against her. Muslims from the girl’s village continue to call for her execution.

Rimsha Masih was accused of blaspheming Islam on August 16 for allegedly burning pages of the Quran in Mehrabad, a poor district of Islamabad. According to Rimsha’s lawyer, Tahir Naveed Chaudhary, an official medical review released on Tuesday determined that the girl is 14 years old, which means she will be tried in the juvenile court system. Rimsha is being held in Rawalpindi prison. She is scheduled to appear in court on August 31.

She was weeping and crying and full of fear,” Chaudhary, who visited Rimsha in jail on Saturday, told NPR. “My client is not guilty in this case because she can't judge right and wrong because she's a minor and also she's illiterate.”

Rimsha, who has mental disabilities, reportedly does not understand the reasons for her imprisonment. “I met the girl at the police station when she was arrested and she is suffering from trauma,” Xavier P William, the Country Director of Masihi Foundation Pakistan, told BBC. “The crowd wanted to burn her alive…. She is an innocent child - she doesn't even know what she did. She is in a state of shock.”

Following Rimsha’s arrest, a Muslim mob, ranging from 600 – 1,000 people, set several Christian homes ablaze, causing hundreds of Christians to flee the area. The mob also called for Rimsha to be burned to death as a blasphemer. “The one who burned the Koran should be burned,” Shaukhat Ali, an assistant at the local mosque, told The Washington Post.

Echoing Ali’s sentiments, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, an imam in Mehrabad, told worshippers during Friday prayers that it was “time for Muslims to wake up” and protect the Quran. “The girl who burnt the Koran has no mental illness and is a normal girl,” Chishti told Agence France-Presse. “She did it knowingly; this is a conspiracy and not a mistake…. [Christians] committed this crime to insult us further. This happened because we did not stop their anti-Islam activities before.”

The case has stirred international outcry over Pakistan’s oppressive blasphemy laws, which are sometimes used to settle personal vendettas or to seek retribution. Many religious minorities in Pakistan, including Christians, live in fear of being accused of blasphemy.

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Now that Rimsha has been labeled a blasphemer, she will never be able to return home. In the past 25 years, more than 46 people accused of blasphemy have been murdered on the streets, in court rooms, or in prison cells. It is likely that Rimsha will also face vigilante justice by outraged Pakistani Muslims, even if she is never convicted. We urge Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari to secure the release of this innocent young girl, to ensure that she is reunited with her family, and to provide a safe place for her to live. Pakistani officials must take action immediately to ensure that Rimsha does not become a victim of mob violence or another casualty of abused blasphemy legislation. No one, adult or child, should fear being executed by their government or burned by a mob simply because they are a member of a minority religious community.”

Want to make a difference in this story? You can sign ICC's petition calling for the immediate release and safekeeping of Rimsha today! Lend your voice by clicking here.

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