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Pakistani court denies bail for ‘Afghan Girl’ Sharbat Gula

November 2, 2016

A prosecutor in Pakistan said a court there denied Sharbat Gula, the woman known to the world as the “Afghan Girl” after a 1985 National Geographic cover propelled her to worldwide recognition, bail, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday. Gula has been detained since last week when she was arrested on charges of being in possession of forged Pakistani identification papers.

At a hearing, Gula denied having fraudulently obtained Pakistani citizenship, but Mohsin Dawar, the prosecutor cited by the AP, said the court dismissed her claims, saying there was a lack of evidence proving Gula’s citizenship. She faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

Gula is in an especially difficult position. Last week, the U.N. agency on refugees reportedly said it was unable to provide assistance to Gula because she’d never officially registered as a refugee. “The UNHCR would have helped her if she was arrested under the Foreign Act and if she was a registered refugee. But now we cannot help her,” Duniya Aslam Khan, a spokesperson for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said.

Meanwhile, Steve McCurry, the photographer whose iconic image made Gula a face recognized around the globe has been following her case closely.

We are advised that the lawyers from both sides have made their arguments, and the Judge has reserved the judgement until tomorrow, Wednesday. We hope and pray that the Judge will allow release on bail.

Posted by Steve McCurry – Official Page on Tuesday, November 1, 2016

He’s also vowed to provide whatever assistance he can muster for Gula. In a Facebook post on Monday, McCurry said he has sent money that Gula will receive upon her release to help her get back on her feet. He added that he “will be setting up a special fund for Sharbat and her children,” to further help them.

A petition calling for her release has been launched in recent days and has amassed more than 1,500 signatures so far.