ASIA/PAKISTAN - Appeal: Christian couple sentenced to death for blasphemy

Wednesday, 27 April 2016 blasphemy   death penalty   religious minorities   islam  

Farrukh Foudation

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - An appeal has been filed to the Court of Appeal and the first hearing will take place in May regarding a Christian couple Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar. This was reported to Fides by the team of lawyers of the "Farrukh Saif Foundation", Pakistani organization that has taken on the legal defense of the couple. The two were of accused of sending blasphemous text messages and were sentenced to death in 2014.
On July 20, 2013, the Christian couple, from Gojra, in Punjab, were accused of sending blasphemous text messages and were later arrested. "The text messages were written in English but both of the accused were uneducated and incapable of writing proper Urdu let alone English", note the lawyers. Shafqat is also confined to a wheelchair due to an accident in 2004 that resulted in him suffering a spinal injury. The local police proceeded to torture him in front of his wife. He pleaded for mercy while the police continued in their attempts to extract a confession from him. On 4 April 2014 the couple were given death "although he police failed to recover any mobile phone or SIM card allegedly registered in Shagufta’s name", refer the lawyers. The only evidence produced by the local police was the receipt from the phone company.
"Addition Sessions judge succumbed to Islamist pressure and handed down the death sentence", reaffirm the lawyers. The whole trial was concluded inside the boundary walls of the prison due to fears for the couple’s security. The couple have four children and activists of the "Farrukh Saif Foundation" are taking care of them.
"The blasphemy law, misused, has put hundreds of members of minority communities behind bars. The law is grossly abused to target minorities", say the lawyers of the "Farrukh Saif Foundation" to Fides. "In most cases, people are falsely and maliciously accused, just for personal revenge" they conclude. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 27/04/2016)