Pakistan court frees mentally ill blasphemy suspect after 14 years

July 23, 2010

blasphemyA Pakistani court ordered the release of a mentally ill women accused of blasphemy who has been held without trial for 14 years, a court official and her lawyer said on Thursday. Police arrested Zaibun Nisa, now 55, in 1996 outside Islamabad after a Muslim cleric registered a complaint about the desecration of a copy of the Koran.

She has been held in the prison section of a mental hospital in the eastern city of Lahore for 14 years without trial because no one pursued her case.

(Photo: Pakistani women protest in Karachi against the blasphemy law, January 16, 2001/Zahid Hussein)

“At her arrest, her medical examination was carried out and doctors had certified that she was mentally ill but still she was languishing in jail,” her lawyer, Aftab Ahmed Bajwa, who recently took up her case with the Lahore High Court, told Reuters. Chaudhry Mohammad Sharif, the chief justice of the high court, ordered Nisa’s immediate release, a court official said.

Human right activists have long called for the repeal of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, which they say discriminates against non-Muslim religious minorities and is also used to settle personal scores.  Two Christian brothers accused of writing a blasphemous letter against the Prophet Mohammad were gunned down outside a court in the eastern city of Faisalabad on Monday.

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