Crime & Justice

Christian couple’s death sentence for blasphemy overturned

Islamabad, Jun 3 (EFE).- A Pakistani court on Thursday acquitted a Christian couple who had been sentenced to death in 2014 for alleged blasphemy and ordered their release from prison.

The ruling comes after the European Parliament had condemned the case and pressured Pakistani authorities to absolve the couple, who had been found guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a text message.

“The court order said both are acquitted of the charge (…) We will challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court and we are hopeful of getting justice there,” the complainant’s lawyer, Ghulam Mustafa, told Efe after the decision by the Lahore High Court.

The lawyer insisted that “the couple committed blasphemy and it will be proven in court” when the petition is filed and added that the acquittal is only due to “pressure from the European Union to Pakistan.”

The couple could be released in the next few days, although Mustafa said they will file an appeal to prevent that outcome.

In a resolution on April 28, the European Parliament condemned the case against Pakistani Christian couple Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel, parents of four children, who were sentenced to death in 2014 on blasphemy charges.

According to the resolution, the evidence against the couple was “deeply flawed,” as both are illiterate and could not have sent the text messages, the cell phone was never recovered and the complainant had been involved in an argument with the couple shortly before the accusation.

The resolution called on the Pakistani government to “immediately and unconditionally release Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar from detention” and “to proceed swiftly with the reviews” of their death sentences and those of “all other citizens currently on death row” for allegedly violating Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws.

The crime is one of 28 that carry the death penalty, although no death sentence has ever been carried out in Pakistan for it.

The best known case is that of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was sentenced in 2010 to death for blasphemy and before being acquitted in January 2019. She went into exile in Canada the following May.

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