A 44 year-old man in Pakistan who kidnapped, raped and forced a 13-year-old into an Islamic “marriage” has been released on bail.
According to International Christian Concern, a Pakistani court ordered Ali Azhar be released on bail, accepting the argument presented by his lawyer that his victim Arzoo Raja had attained puberty.
“There are good, bad and at times even dark days for justice,” said Jibran Nasir, the lawyer representing Arzoo Raja’s parents.
Raja had been kidnapped on October 13 in Karachi. Azhar claimed that she converted to Islam and married him according to Islamic law.
After both local police and a lower court refused to help Raja’s parents, the Sindh High Court ordered Azhar be arrested for breaking child marriage laws and rape in November.
Azhar claims he is innocent, arguing that the marriage was valid under Sharia Law and that the 13-year-old consented. If found guilty, Azhar faces the death penalty.
According to Nasir, Azhar and others in the Muslim community have psychologically and physically traumatized the girl.
“Arzoo is reluctant to live with her parents because of the consistent brainwashing done by the accused and certain community activists for ulterior motives,” he said.
Pakistan is ranked the fifth most dangerous country for Christians to practice by Open Doors USA. Attacks on Christians and discrimination is common, and courts and law enforcement often support Sharia law over official Pakistani law.
It has been estimated that around 1,000 Pakistani girls from religious-minority backgrounds are forced to marry older Muslim men annually.