Pakistan 'blasphemy' girl case adjourned

Tahir Naveed Chaudhry (C) the lawyer of the Christian girl charged with blasphemy for allegedly burning papers of Koranic verses, leaves a court after the case hearing in Islamabad on August 30, 2012.

ISLAMABAD - A young Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy must wait until at least Monday to learn if she will be given bail, after a judge adjourned her case on Saturday amid doubts over legal paperwork.

Rimsha has been in custody since she was arrested in a poor Islamabad suburb more than two weeks ago accused of burning papers containing verses from the Koran, in breach of Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws.

Judge Muhammad Azam Khan adjourned the case to Monday and asked police to investigate a bail application made on Rimsha's behalf after prosecutors claimed paperwork had not been signed by the girl or her mother.

Speaking to reporters outside the court, Rimsha's lawyer Tahir Naveed Chaudhry accused prosecutors and lawyers for her accuser of delaying tactics.

"The medical report has declared her an underage person with low IQ. How can she commit blasphemy? She is innocent and should be released," he said.

A medical report earlier this week said Rimsha appeared to be around 14 years old, which would make her a minor, and had a mental age below her true age, but the court has yet to decide whether to accept the assessment.

Some reports have said Rimsha has Down's Syndrome and her case has prompted concern from Western governments and anger from rights groups, who warn the blasphemy legislation is often abused to settle personal vendettas.

Blasphemy is a very sensitive subject in the Pakistan, where 97 percent of the 180 million population are Muslims, and allegations of insulting Islam or the prophet Mohammad often prompt a furious public reaction.

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