Pakistan blasphemy case girl examined by doctors

Pakistani Christian women collect their belongings to leave their home in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Image copyright AP
Image caption Some Christian families are leaving the Islamabad neighbourhood where the incident happened

Doctors in Pakistan have examined a young Christian girl imprisoned on blasphemy charges to determine her age and mental capacity, with the results due to be presented in court tomorrow.

Her lawyer says the girl, called Rimsha, is 11 or 12 years old and appears to have Downs syndrome.

She is being held in a maximum security prison after an angry mob accused her of desecrating pages of the Koran.

But her supporters say she has been wrongly accused.

Police say the girl was arrested last week in a Christian area of the capital Islamabad, after a crowd of people demanded that she be punished for allegedly desecrating pages of the Muslim holy book.

It is not clear whether she burned pages of the Koran or was found to be carrying them in her bag.

Attack fears

The doctors' report will be presented at a bail hearing in Islamabad on Tuesday.

Christian leaders say she is as young as 11 but police quoted in some media reports say she may be older and that she had no mental impairments.

Pakistan's Minister for National Harmony, Paul Bhatti, has said she is innocent and should be released.

He told the BBC earlier: "The police were initially reluctant to arrest her, but they came under a lot of pressure from a very large crowd who were threatening to burn down Christian homes."

According to the BBC's Orla Guerin in Islamabad, Rimsha's lawyer said that when he saw her in jail over the weekend she wept and begged to be released.

Her parents have been taken into protective custody following threats, and many other Christian families are reported to have fled the neighbourhood.

There are fears that even if she is released, Rimsha's family will not be safe in Pakistan. Others accused of blasphemy have been killed by vigilante mobs in the recent past.

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