Pakistan: Two Christians Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy Are Acquitted

Source: FSSPX News

Lahore High Court

A Catholic couple, Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife Shagufta Kausar, unfairly sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy in April 2014, have spent eight years on death row. They were acquitted by a decision of the Lahore High Court on June 3, 2021.

The couple had been charged under section 295, paragraph C, of ​​the Pakistani Penal Code for broadcasting offensive remarks against the Prophet Muhammad in text messages sent to the plaintiffs Malik Muhammad Hussain and Anwar Mansoor Goraya.

The couple were sentenced to death (and fined 100,000 rupees each) in April 2014 by Judge Tek Singh of the Toba District Court. Denying all the charges, they appealed to the Lahore High Court and obtained a full acquittal.

Two judges from the Lahore High Court overturned the death sentence and ordered the release of the two convicts, who were in separate prisons.

Their lawyer said: “Justice is done, but who will restore 8 years of life to this innocent couple? Who will pay for the false accusations? It is necessary to review the distorted mechanism that leads to such consequences and generates so much suffering for which no one will be identified as responsible.”

“We thank God for this good news. The task of keeping them safe is now a top priority.… We hope and pray that they will find a safe place to live,” said Fr. Bonnie Mendes, a priest in Faisalabad, in a message sent to the Fides Agency.

The couple's ordeal began with a quarrel between their children and those of their neighbors. After the argument, the plaintiff, Malik Muhammad Hussain, with the help of a friend, managed to steal a copy of Shagufta's identity card in order to obtain a SIM card in her name.

In her statement, Shagufta claimed that she had never seen or used the card and that Malik Hussain himself wrote and sent blasphemous texts in her name. During the investigation, it was found that the text messages sent were written in English, while the two defendants are illiterate, do not know English, and speak only Urdu.

The police were also unable to recover the cell phone and the SIM card used to send the text messages.

Kashif Aslam, deputy director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) of the Bishops of Pakistan, told Fides: “This verdict is a defeat for all those who abuse the blasphemy laws, for fanatic circles, for those political leaders who deny the existence of cases of blasphemy based on false accusations, abuses or carried out for improper purposes.”

“In Pakistan,” he adds, “people abuse the blasphemy law for personal quarrels or rivalries; many of the people accused of blasphemy are sentenced to death, there are even extrajudicial executions.”

Examples abound. Last month, a 32-year-old Christian, Arif Masih, was killed by a group of Muslims after defending his sister against the advances of two young Muslims. Days later, a 13-year-old Christian woman was raped after three young Muslims from her neighborhood broke into her home while her parents were at work.