02/27/2021 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Amnesty International has called on the Pakistani government to release a Christian couple sentenced to death under the country’s blasphemy laws. The husband and wife have been in prison since 2013 after they were accused of sending blasphemous text messages.
Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel remain on death row in Pakistan after they were convicted of violating Pakistan’s blasphemy laws in April 2014. The couple is accused of sending blasphemous text messages to a mosque cleric in 2013.
On June 18, 2013, Muhammad Hussain, a Muslim cleric at a mosque in Gojra received blasphemous text messages from a phone number allegedly registered to Shagufta while leading prayers. Hussain reportedly showed these text messages to his lawyer, Anwar Mansoor Goraya, who later claimed to also receive blasphemous messages from Shagufta, written in English.
On July 21, 2013, Shagufta and her husband, Shafqat, were both arrested and charged with blasphemy under Sections 295-B and 295-C of Pakistan’s Penal Code. To extract a false confession, Shafqat claims Gojra City Police tortured him in front of his wife and children. According to Shafqat, he gave this false confession because the police threatened to torture his wife if he refused.
According to Shagufta, Hussain’s accusation against her and her husband is motivated by a minor quarrel between the couple’s children and their neighbors which took place six months prior to the text messages. Shagufta claims Hussain conspired with a friend to steal her National Identity Card and use it to purchase a SIM card in her name. Using this SIM card, Hussain sent blasphemous text messages to himself.
The blasphemous messages were written in English, a language neither Shagufta nor her husband can speak. The couple is also illiterate and incapable of texting even in proper Urdu, let along English.
Throughout the course of the investigation, little evidence was produced against the Christian couple. Police were unable to recover the SIM or the phone allegedly used by Shagufta to send the blasphemous text messages. Despite the lack of evidence, the couple was sentenced to death on April 4, 2014.
After six years on death row, Amnesty International is calling on the Pakistani government to release the Christian couple. Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director of South Asia, Samira Hamidi, went on to criticize Pakistan’s blasphemy laws claiming they are the cause of violence and unjust executions.
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