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Pakistan denies bail to Sharbat Gula, the National Geographic cover girl

A Pakistani court has denied bail to Sharbat Gula, the Afghan girl who posed for a National Geographic magazine photograph 31 years ago. Arrested for illegally living in Pakistan, she could now face 14 years in prison.

Gula is in jail in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar after being arrested last Wednesday following an investigation by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which accuses her of possessing illegally obtained documents. She allegedly forged documents to get Pakistani nationality, police official Tahir Khan said.

Gula's arrest comes amid Pakistani pressure to send 2.5 million Afghan refugees back home.

The court for anti-corruption and immigration said her application to be freed focused on human rights and did not contain any legal arguments. "During her illegal stay in Pakistan, she twice misused her position by obtaining a Pakistani Computerised National Identity Card," judge Farah Jamshed said.

Gula - who is now in her 40s - became a symbol of her country's wars when her photo appeared on the cover of "National Geographic" in 1985, the image becoming a symbol of Afghanistan under Soviet occupation, despite her living in Pakistan since her country was invaded by Russian forces in 1979.

Afghanistan Ambassador to Islamabad Omar Zakhirwal has asked the Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to intervene. "The arrest of Sharbat Gula ... had already hurt feelings of all Afghans," Zakhirwal wrote in a post on the Facebook, "and today's ruling was a further disregard to those feelings."

jbh/kl (Reuters, dpa, AP)

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