Death sentence over blasphemy allegations
had been living in poverty with their four children in a mission compound of the Gojra Church in Punjab, Pakistan. On 18 June 2013, allegedly blasphemous text messages, were sent to a cleric and a lawyer from a phone allegedly registered in Shagufta Kausar’s name. Kausar and
her husband Shafqat Emmanuel were arrested and charged with blasphemy on 21 July 2013. The couple is illiterate and would not have been able to write any text messages at all. Kauser claimed that her phone had been missing for a month at the time
of the incident. It is uncertain who sent the messages and for what reason.
Blasphemy is punishable by death in
Pakistan, and though no one has been formally executed for it, dozens have been killed by mobs after being accused of the crime. Emmanuel had been tortured into making a false confession. They beat him and threatened to strip Kausar naked and let
her walk across town. A session court sentenced Kausar and Emmanuel to death. They launched an appeal in the Lahore High Court, which has now acquitted them of all charges.
Threat to life despite acquittal
Highlighting the problems surrounding accusations
of blasphemy, even in cases that eventually result in acquittal, the couple’s lawyer, Saif Ul Malook, said:
Shafqat are incredibly relieved to have finally been acquitted of these unfounded blasphemy charges. The many delays to the hearing of their appeal caused them a lot of suffering. These cases are very difficult to litigate, due to the concern for security.
There is a very real threat to the life of the clients and the lawyers.”
In the footsteps of Asia Bibi
Kausar was held in the same prison as Asia Bibi. In a case that received global headlines, Bibi was accused of blasphemy and held on death row for eight years until she was acquitted in 2018. Her case serves as a well-known example of
the current threat to religious minorities in the region. After her acquittal, there were violent demonstrations across Pakistan threatening her life and she was forced to flee the country.
“Blasphemy laws directly violate international law. How many more people must suffer the same fate as Asia Bibi and Shagufta and Shafqat until they are repealed? All
people have the right to freely choose and live out their faith. We therefore urge all governments to uphold this right by ceasing enforcement and initiating repeal of their blasphemy laws,” said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF
12 Aug 21/Friday Source: Eternitynews.com