ISLAMABAD (Reuters/AFP) - A court adjourned on Thursday a bail hearing for a Christian girl accused of defaming Islam, prompting human rights activists to make fresh calls for her release.

Religious and secular groups worldwide have protested over the arrest this month of Rimsha Masih, accused by Muslim neighbours of burning Islamic religious texts. “This will go on and on and this little minor girl will rot in jail,” said human rights activist Tahira Abdullah outside an Islamabad court. “We want her out of jail. We want her under protection.” There have been conflicting reports about Masih’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.

Rao Abdur Raheem, a lawyer representing the accuser in the case, said the medical report was conducted without a court order, prompting the bail hearing to be postponed until September 1. “She could get 110 per cent punishment,” he told Reuters.

“We are just praying for her and we hope that she will be released soon,” said Christian activist Xavier William. Lawyer Raheem said he did not want to see Masih’s case turned into another one focusing on changing the law, and he warned that to do so could again incite a violent reaction. “There are many Mumtaz Qadris in this country and we will support them,” the lawyer said, referring to Governor Taseer’s killer.

Abdur Raheem also claimed that doctors and officials are “favouring” Rimsha. “The victim has admitted that she burned a chapter of the holy Quran,” Abdur Raheem told reporters outside court in Islamabad.

“The doctors are favouring the victim and the state is also supporting her.” Raheem also objected to the medical examination because it was carried out a day before the court formally requested it. Judge Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan adjourned the case to Saturday to seek clarification on the report.

Meanwhile, Minister for National Harmony Paul Bhatti said even if the law were changed, allegations of blasphemy provoke such visceral fury that people would take the law into their own hands.  “This is a very difficult time for Pakistan, there is sectarian violence, there is extremism, there is terrorism,” said Bhatti. “The people who want to destabilise the country, they can use easy victims. And many times, easy victims are Christians like in this case.”

But the cases are not solely a matter of religion, he said. “It is not just a religious problem. It’s a caste factor, because it is a certain group of people who belong to the poorest and most marginalised people,” Bhatti said.

“Unfortunately they are Christians and this caste system creates lots of problems.” Solving the problem means promoting tolerance and helping the poor and the marginalised, Bhatti said, but there is a great deal of work to be done. “You cannot change this problem in one month or two, it takes (a) long time,” he said.