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Christian couple on death row for 8 years cleared of blasphemy charges

Posted by on June 5, 2021 — Drop A Comment


A Pakistani court has acquitted a Christian couple of blasphemy after nearly eight years on death row.
Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar
were accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in text messages in 2013.
Mosque leader Maulvi Mohammed Hussain said
Emmanuel used his wife’s phone to send him a
number of blasphemous statements, including a
message insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
However, the texts were written in English – a
language the couple are not even able to speak.
Despite this, they were charged with “insulting the
Quran” and “insulting the prophet”.
The couple have always maintained their innocence,
while Emmanuel claimed that he was tortured into
giving a false confession.
After years in prison, the Lahore High Court acquitted
the couple on Thursday and ordered their release.
Saif-ul-Malook, the couple’s attorney, told
International Christian Concern he was “just happy to
get justice for this couple.”
Accusations of blasphemy against Christians and
other minorities are common in Pakistan. The
charges are serious, carrying a death penalty but
human rights advocates say the laws are often
misused to make false accusations often for
personal gain or to settle vendettas.
Even though blasphemy cases normally result in
acquittals, it can be years before they reach the
courts, and even after being acquitted, the accused
are often forced to go into hiding because of death
threats.
Another victim of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, Asia
Bibi, had to seek asylum with her family in Canada
after being released following nearly a decade on
death row in terrible conditions.
ICC Regional Manager William Stark said it was
“great to see such a prolonged blasphemy case justly
resolved” but he said the couple remain unsafe, as
do other Christians who are at risk of false
blasphemy accusations.
He called for urgent reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy
laws.
“We remain deeply concerned for the safety of the
Christian couple and their family,” he said.
“Extremists in Pakistan are known to target
individuals accused of religious crimes, like
blasphemy, even after they have been acquitted.
“The abuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws must be
curbed, and false allegations must be rooted out and
punished.
“Too often these laws have been a tool in the hands
of extremists seeking to stir up religiously motivated
violence against minorities.
“Without reform, religious minorities will continue to
face false blasphemy accusations and the violence
that often accompanies these accusations.”


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