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Residents gather outside the house of a Christian girl, who was arrested on charges of blasphemy, in the low-income neighbourhood of Mehrabad in the suburb of Islamabad. — Photo by AP

ISLAMABAD: A court in Islamabad on Friday extended the judicial remand of a girl who had been accused of blasphemy to 14 days, DawnNews reported.

The girl was presented in the court of judicial magistrate Islamabad Inamullah Khan today. Television footage showed her in court covered in a white sheet to protect her identity. She was surrounded by police.

During the proceedings, the judge directed the investigation officer to produce the case's challan.

Upon which, the investigation officer said that the investigation had not been concluded and requested that more time be given.

The court, granting the police's request, extended the girl's judicial remand for two weeks and directed the officer to conclude the case's investigation at the earliest.

The girl's lawyer, Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, said the court's decision Friday was procedural, since her initial detention ended the day before. He said he hopes to free her on bail Saturday.

The girl belonging to the Christian community who is said to be suffering from Down’s Syndrome has been held since Aug 16 under the strict blasphemy laws, prompting concern from Western governments, the Vatican and rights groups.

Earlier on Thursday, the court of district and sessions judge Islamabad Justice Jawad Abbas adjourned the bail hearing for the girl, prompting human rights activists to make fresh calls for her release.

Religious and secular groups worldwide have protested over the girl’s arrest.

“This will go on and on and this little minor girl will rot in jail,” said human rights activist Tahira Abdullah. “We want her out of jail. We want her under protection.”

There have been conflicting reports about the girl’s age and her mental state. Some media have said she is 11 and suffers from Down's Syndrome.

A hospital said in a report she was about 14 but had the mental capacities of someone below that age and was uneducated.

The girl’s arrest also triggered an exodus of several hundred Christians from her poor neighbourhood on the edge of Islamabad.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive subject in Pakistan, where 97 per cent of the 180 million population are Muslims, and allegations of desecrating the Holy Quran or insulting Islam often provoke public fury.

In July, a mob of more than 2,000 snatched a mentally unstable man from a police station, beat him to death and torched his body after he was accused of burning pages from a copy of the Holy Quran.

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