A Pakistani teenage girl at the center of national outrage over a video purporting to show her public flogging by the Taliban reportedly told an Islamic judge and a provincial official that the incident never happened.
The video, shown last week by Pakistani television and widely posted on the Web, shows the crying 17-year-old girl being held down by several men — including a man identified as her brother — as a member of the Taliban beats her.
The incident reportedly took place between two and five weeks ago in the Swat Valley village of Kala Killay. The video has sparked nationwide condemnation and demonstrations challenging the government's decision to allow Shariah law into the Taliban-controlled region.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called for an immediate inquiry and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry — recently restored to office — ordered police and government officials from the north-western territory to bring the girl to court for questioning.
But the girl, identified as Chand Bibi, instead was interviewed at her home by an Islamic judge and a local government commissioner, and reportedly told them that the beating never happened.
"She requested the judge and the commissioner to spare her from appearing in the court in Islamabad," said provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said, the Times of India reported.
Hussain said that upon questioning by the Islamic judge, she denied neighbors' claims that she had been dragged from her home, held down and flogged. She also denied reports that she had been charged with having an illicit relationship with a local man — who witnesses claim also was beaten — or that the Taliban forced the two to marry, the Times reported.
Instead, Hussain said, the girl told the judge the man was her husband, and that the video was a fake distributed to disrupt the peace process in the region.
"We condemn the acts of repression against women.... But the incident depicted in the videotape never took place in Swat," Hussain said.
Pakistani officials had no comment Monday on the girl's claims, a day after thousands of women turned out across the country to protest her alleged treatment.
But a spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington told FOXNews.com that the government is investigating the video to determine who, if anyone, is at fault.
"The people of Pakistan were outraged by this video and there are many questions: if this has been manufactured by some groups of vested interest, or if it is real. And so investigations are still going on," said Nadeem Kiani, press attache for the embassy.
"On the face of it people are outraged, the government has condemned this and shown their resolve that they would never allow this thing to happen in Pakistan at any cost."
A State Department official told FOX News that they are monitoring the situation and support Pakistani efforts to bring the perpetrators of the beating to justice.
"We are concerned about the situation in the Swat Valley," the official said in response to questions about the application of Shariah law there, calling the incident "an internal Pakistani matter."
Kiani, who said the act of public violence against women was "unheard of" in Pakistan, said the government will take "all possible steps so that ... no incident of violence takes place against women anywhere in Pakistan, may it be Swat or Islamabad or Lahore."
Meanwhile, the man who videotaped the flogging told Pakistan's Dawn News that the girl was being punished for refusing a marriage proposal from a Taliban militant.
The Times of India, the Daily News, Dawn, Reuters and the BBC contributed to this report.