Pakistan: Christian couple sentenced to death for blasphemy, appeal verdict in April

Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar

Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar

Source: Fides

The appeal verdict of Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, a Christian couple from Gjra, in Punjab, sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2014, will be read on 8 April 2020 by the Lahore High Court. The couple were accused of having sent text messages deemed blasphemous.

Catholic lawyer Khalil Tahir Sandhu, who took over the defence of the two defendants, said he is "confident" of the positive outcome of the hearing and for an acquittal verdict, as, he said: "there is no clear evidence against the two of them."

The incriminating text messages were written in English, but both defendants, who have four children, are poor and illiterate, and cannot write in Urdu, nor in English.

"The trial before the Session Court (First Instance) was conditioned by Islamist pressure", notes the lawyer.

The appeal presented to the Lahore Court of Appeal is being examined six years after the First Instance court sentence. Lawyer Sandhu said this long delay has heightened the suffering of two innocent people.

Mr Sandhu has defended more than 40 cases of Christians wrongly accused of blasphemy throughout his career.

There are currently 25 Christians in prison for blasphemy in Pakistan, six of whom sentenced to death. Sandhu said all the victims are safer inside a prison rather than outside - where they could be killed by Islamic radicals, regardless of the outcome of any trial.

Shagufta Kausar knew Asia Bibi, (the Pakistani Christian sentenced to death and acquitted in 2018,) because during the last phase of her detention, they were cell neighbours. The woman and her husband hope for the support of public opinion, national and international, and also in the specific support of Asia Bibi, who is now free.

Tags: Pakistan, Asia Bibi, Shafqat Emmanuel, Shagufta Kausar, Khalil Tahir Sandhu

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