Pak Christian girl's bail hearing postponed
Islamabad: The bail hearing of a minor Christian girl charged with blasphemy in Pakistan was on Saturday put off till Monday after her accuser's counsel raised questions about the lawyer representing her and legal paperwork in the case.
Judge Azam Khan adjourned Rimsha Masih's case till September 03 and asked police to check a bail application made on her behalf after the accuser's lawyer claimed in the district and sessions court that legal papers had not been signed by the girl or her mother.
Rimsha's mother Irshad Bibi had submitted a bail plea on August 25 but the girl had not signed the power of attorney.
The judge asked police to verify the power of attorney and said the hearing would resume once the verification is completed.
Sources told a news agency that Rimsha's bail plea had run into problems because a number of lawyers, including Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, were claiming to represent her.
Chaudhry is also a member of the Punjab Assembly.
During today's hearing, Rimsha's mother submitted an application that said Anjum Riaz should be replaced by Chaudhry as the young girl's counsel.
Yesterday, a court extended Rimsha's judicial remand for 14 days at the request of the police.
She is currently being held at the high-security Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, where terrorists like Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives accused of involvement in the Mumbai attacks are also being detained.
Rimsha has been in custody since she was arrested in a low-income neighbourhood on the outskirts of Islamabad on August 16 after being accused by an angry mob of burning papers containing verses from the Quran. Rimsha was charged under the country's controversial blasphemy law.
Rimsha's counsel Tahir Naveed Chaudhry claimed that prosecutors and lawyers for her accuser were using delaying tactics.
"The medical report has declared her a minor with a low IQ. How can she commit blasphemy? She is innocent and should be released," he said.
An official medical board that examined Rimsha said in its report that she was around 14 years old and that her mental development did not correspond with her age.
The court was unable to accept the board's findings after they were questioned by Rao Abdul Raheem, the lawyer of Rimsha's accuser.
Raheem has warned that people could take the law into their own hands if Rimsha is not convicted.
Rights activists said Raheem's remarks could further complicate the case and pressure the court.
Rimsha's case has prompted concern from Western governments and the Vatican.
It has also focused attention again on Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law, under which a person can be punished with life in prison or death.
Rights groups have warned that the law is often used to settle personal scores or persecute minorities like Christians.