Religious and human rights leaders from around the world have stepped forward to defend a Pakistani Christian girl who has been arrested and jailed for the supposed crime of blasphemy. Rimsha Masih, who is believed to be around 11 years old and who reportedly has Down syndrome, was accused in mid-August of burning a booklet containing scripture from the Quran, and for throwing the burned pages into the garbage. According to Mission Network News, the girl, who is from a rural area of Mehrabadi in Islamabad, was taken by a mob that threatened to burn the homes of Christians in the area unless she was arrested by the police.
“Human-rights groups are asking for the girl to be released immediately,” reported the missions news site. “According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, prominent Muslim clerics in Pakistan and the country's president are pressing for a fair and impartial investigation into her case.” The new site noted that blasphemy laws in the country “have long been used to harass religious minorities and settle personal vendettas. Amnesty International and other human rights groups called for Pakistan to reform their blasphemy laws and protect Masih and her family against possible intimidation or attack.”
The Christian Post reported that on August 31 a Pakistani court ordered that the girl continue to be held for another two weeks while the police pursue an investigation into the charges. An attorney for the man who accused the girl of blasphemy warned the court that locals may take the law into their own hands if the girl is not convicted.
According to sources close to the situation, the charges against the girl appear to be trumped up, prompting Pakistan's Human Rights Commission to condemn her arrest and imprisonment. “The fact that the girl is a juvenile and suffers from Down syndrome only makes the charge more preposterous and barbaric,” the commission said in a statement. “It is also extremely disturbing to note that the police allowed a mob to surround the police station and demand that she be handed over.”
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