A Christian couple who spent seven years on death row in Pakistan on false blasphemy charges has been granted asylum in a European country.
According to human rights organization ADF International, Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel arrived in Europe last week after their death sentence was overturned by the Lahore High Court in early June.
The parents of four children said they are “so relieved to finally be free” and are happy to be reunited with their children after a very difficult eight years.
The Christian spouses were released from prison on July 1. The country where they have been granted asylum has not been identified due to security concerns.
“Although we will miss our country, we are happy to finally be somewhere safe. Hopefully, the blasphemy laws in Pakistan will soon be abolished, so others won’t suffer the same fate as Shagufta and I,” Shafqat Emmanuel said.
The couple had faced death threats after news broke of their acquittal and release from death row.
In 2013, the poor Christian couple were living with their children on a mission compound of the Gojra Church in Punjab, Pakistan, when allegedly blasphemous text messages were sent to a cleric and a lawyer from a cellphone allegedly registered in Shagufta Kausar’s name.
Pakistan’s penal code criminalizes speech that insults or defiles the state religion of Islam, but it is often used against religious minorities and many accusations are reportedly false. Pakistan has among the strictest blasphemy laws in the world, as one of only four countries with the death penalty for blasphemy.
Kausar and Emmanuel were defended by attorney Saiful Malook, the same lawyer who worked for Asia Bibi, another Christian wife and mother falsely accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.