Pakistani Teen Acquitted
of Converting Muslim Friend
Innocent Teen Raped
and Tortured by Police
 
6 May 1999 (Newsroom) -- A Lahore court has dismissed all 
charges against a Pakistani Christian teen accused of converting a 
Muslim classmate to Christianity, according to the Washington D.C. 
rights group International Christian Concern (ICC). In June 1997, 
authorities arrested then-17-year-old Saleema and her pastor for 
allegedly converting Saleema's friend Raheela Khanam. Both 
Saleema and her pastor, Arthur Salim, were tortured while in 
detention, ICC says. Saleema claims to have been whipped 16 
times.

Despite her acquittal, ICC says that Saleema faces possible threats 
by extremist Muslim groups. Several Christians charged under 
Pakistan's blasphemy laws and later released have been forced to 
flee Pakistan due to threats against their lives. Salim lived in hiding 
with his family following his detention and now lives abroad.

Saleema's friend Raheela was killed by her brother Altaf Khanam on 
July 8, 1997, after repeated attempts by family members to force 
Raheela to recant her Christian faith. The Muslim family claimed 
that Raheela's death was necessary due to her conversion and refusal 
to marry a Muslim man arranged by her parents. Nevertheless, ICC 
says, the family blamed Saleema for Raheela's death because of her 
influence on Raheela's conversion to Christianity.

Police detained Saleema again following Raheela's murder. While in 
jail, Saleema told Pakistani human rights workers that four of her 
police captors raped her and that she had been tortured.

Saleema was released on bail on August 7, 1997 and since then has 
been living under the protective care of Pakistani Christians. 
Suffering from injuries inflicted upon her during her captivity, and 
for other unknown reasons, she missed several court appearances. 
After three court appearances during the past couple of months, a 
court determined that there was no sufficient evidence against 
Saleema and dropped all charges.


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