PAKISTAN – Christian couple face death sentence for “blasphemy by text”
Pakistani Christians spouses Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar who have four children are facing death. They were charged with blasphemy for allegedly sending text messages (SMS) that were considered blasphemous and were sentenced to death on 4 April 2014. The team of lawyers “Farrukh Saif Foundation” which has assumed the legal defense of both spouses, filed an appeal with the Court of Appeal against this sentence.
Shafqat is disabled and has used a wheelchair since 2004 because of an accident to the spine. His defense lawyers say he “was extorted and forced to confess by the police, who threatened to harm his wife.” The charges are unfounded. The text messages were written in English but both defendants are poor and illiterate even in their native Urdu language, let alone in English. Moreover, the legal representatives added ” there was no SIM or phone registered to Shagufta”. The only evidence presented by the police is a statement of the telephone company.
Although there was no concrete evidence, “the trial judge yielded to Islamist pressure and issued the death sentence”. The whole process took place inside the prison because of fears for the safety of the pair.
Owing to misuse of the blasphemy law, hundreds of members of minority Pakistani communities have been imprisoned. “In most cases, people are falsely and maliciously accused only for personal revenge”, reports an attorney from “Farrukh Saif Foundation”.