A lawyer for Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl arrested on blasphemy charges – whose case has prompted international fury from rights campaigners – claimed on Thursday he had been refused a meeting with her.
Police arrested Rimsha, who reportedly has Down’s Syndrome, from a low-income neighbourhood of the capital last Thursday after she was accused of burning papers containing verses from the Holy Quran, and remanded her for 14 days in the juvenile section of Adiyala jail.
Rimsha, aged between 11 and 16, is being held in a jail in Rawalpindi.
“The lawyers are facing difficulties to see the accused girl. The jail authorities have told them to get permission from the top authorities,” Shamaun Alfred Gill, a spokesman for All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) said. Her legal team said they had approached the higher authorities in Punjab but could not get a go ahead for the meeting.
“I myself contacted the inspector general (of prisons) by phone and he told me that he will call me back, but I am still waiting to speak to him,” Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, one of Rimsha’s lawyers said. “He is not receiving my calls now. Legally, they can’t stop a lawyer seeing his client in the jail but the authorities are refusing us a meeting.”
But Farooq Nazir, the inspector-general of Punjab prisons, told AFP there was no restriction on Rimsha meeting her lawyer or immediate family and insisted she was being cared for.
Chaudhry told The Express that Irshad Bibi, Rimsha’s mother would move a bail application on Friday (today) for the release of her daughter.
He added that they have also filed an application with a court in Islamabad to set up a medical panel to determine Rimsha’s age.
Appeal to chief justice
Hundreds of Christian families, who fled the suburb in Islamabad fearing backlash after Rimsha’s arrest on blasphemy charges, appealed to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Thursday to ensure their security. (Additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2012.