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Christian girl held by police over suspected blasphemy

Pakistani authorities arrested a Christian girl and are investigating whether she violated the country’s strict blasphemy laws after furious neighbours surrounded her house, a police officer said yesterday.

The arrest of the girl and outrage among the local community demonstrates the deep emotion that suspected blasphemy cases can evoke in the conservative Muslim country, where rising extremism often means religious minorities live in fear of persecution.

In Pakistan, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam’s Prophet Mohammed, or holy book, the Quran, can be sentenced to death, although they are rarely, if ever, executed.

A Pakistani police officer, Zabi Ullah, said the girl was arrested after hundreds of neighbours, angry over reports that she had burned religious papers, gathered outside her house in an outlying district of Islamabad.

There was confusion on the girl’s age and whether she was mentally disabled. Ullah said she was 16 while other officials have said she was either 12 or 11.

“About 500 to 600 people had gathered outside her house in Islamabad, and they were very emotional, angry, and they might have harmed her if we had not reacted,” said Ullah.

“Some Muslims claim the girl had burned pages of the Quran. We are investigating, and we have not reached any conclusion,” he said.


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