By Worthy News Asia Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)-- A court hearing was underway Friday, January 29, in Pakistan against the main suspect in the murder of a 12-year-old Christian domestic servant, her family's representatives said.
Shazia Masih was allegedly mentally and physically abused in the home of Muslim lawyer Chaudhry Mohammad Naeem, in the city of Lahore, where she had worked for the last eight months to support her poor parents.
She was taken to hospital for treatment "but did not recover and passed away on January 22," said lawyers of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) who represent Masih's family in court.
Police was reportedly unwilling to investigate the case, but eventually backed down amid pressure of rights activists and detained Naeem on murder charges.
Friday, January 29, "is a very crucial day for us as CLAAS presents its case against the main suspect in the murder of Shazia, Chaudhry Naeem" who was arrested after staging a demonstration in front of the Provincial Assembly, CLAAS official Nasir Saeed told Worthy News and its partner agency BosNewsLife.
He cautioned that the case has been complicated by news that Naeem's lawyers and supporters are preventing Masih's family of attending the hearing.
"We anticipate large numbers of supporters will gather at the district court in support of Naeem. We fear unrest and even an attack on the CLAAS team, Shazia's family and their supporters," Saeed said.
"CLAAS is still determined to go the distance necessary to secure justice for Shazia and her family." A news conference of CLAAS and church leaders was to be held later Friday, January 29.
The case has underscored international concerns over the treatment of impoverished Christians and especially domestic servants in the predominantly Muslim nation.
2009 was the "worst" period of persecution against Christians in Pakistan in the last decade, with attacks, arrests and detentions that reportedly killed some 130 Christians across the Islamic country, CLAAS investigators have said. (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).