Disabled Christian Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy Files for Appeal in Pakistan

ICC Note:

Shafqat Masih, a disabled Christian sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy in Pakistan, filed for appeal this week and is seeking to be released on bail due to poor conditions in prison. Masih, who is sentenced to death along with his wife Shagufta, was accused of sending blasphemous text messages to a Islamic cleric in July 2013. The Christian couple claim they did not own the SIM that sent the text message and had lost the phone months before the text was sent. Despite little evidence, a sessions court found the couple guilty and sentenced them to death in April 2014. Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan are often falsely accused of blasphemy. It is widely believed that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often abused to settle scores, for personal gain, or to incite religious hatred against a minority community. 

2/10/2016 Pakistan (Deccan Chronicle) – A disabled Pakistani Christian man, who along with his wife has been sentenced to death for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages to a local cleric, has filed an appeal in the High Court here, seeking bail on account of his bad health condition.

Shafqat Masih, who is paralyzed waist down, and his wife Shagufta, who are in their 40s, were sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy by a sessions court of Toba Tek Singh district of Punjab Province in April 2014.

Shafqat yesterday filed a petition in the Lahore High Court for suspension of his sentence till the final decision on his appeal. “I have developed bedsores and I may die in jail as there is no possibility of a better treatment there,” he pleaded in the petition.

He further said, “There are serious contradictions in witness accounts against me and my wife and we are hopeful of an acquittal on our appeal.” The court has fixed March 5 for the hearing of his petition.

Shafqat and his wife Shagufta, who was working as a maid in a Church school, were accused of sending blasphemous text messages in July, 2013 to a local cleric even though they claimed that they are illiterate.

Local police registered a blasphemy case against the couple on the complaint of the cleric and a lawyer. An NGO, the World Vision in Progress, is defending the couple and looking after their four children, three sons and a daughter aged between six and 12. It alleged that the police had tortured Shafqat and made him confess the crime.

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