Shagufta Kausar and her husband Shafqat Emmanuel have spent the last six years in jail waiting for an appeal against their death sentence for blasphemy.
The family of the poor Christian couple from the central Pakistani town of Gojra, hope an end to their ordeal could be in sight; a final hearing at Lahore High Court was scheduled for Wednesday, though it was delayed. The hearing was postponed to 22 June.
Their lawyer, Saif ul Malook, who also represented Asia Bibi, another Christian woman who had a death sentence for blasphemy successfully overturned, said the evidence used to convict the couple was deeply flawed.
However, he warned, that judges can be fearful of acquitting suspects, in case they are targeted themselves by extremists. Court proceedings have also slowed in recent weeks as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
The married couple were convicted in 2014 of sending blasphemous text messages insulting the Prophet Mohammed to a local imam from a phone number registered to Shagufta’s name. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and though no-one has ever been executed for it, dozens have been killed by mobs after being accused of the crime.
Shagufta’s brother Joseph, said the couple were innocent, and he doubted they were literate enough to have written the abusive messages. Prior to the charges Shagufta worked as a caretaker in a Christian school. Her husband Shafqat is partially paralysed.
Joseph said on a visit to jail, Shafqat told him he had been tortured into making a false confession: “He told me the policeman hit [him] so hard that his leg was broken.”
The couple have four children, who Joseph said have been left traumatised.
Human rights groups say blasphemy allegations are frequently used to settle personal scores or target religious minorities. The couple’s lawyer said that in their trial they suggested a neighbour they had argued with might have purchased a SIM card in Shagufta’s name and sent the messages in order to frame them.
Sources: BBC, International Christian Concern
- Ask the Lord to strengthen and sustain this couple as they continue the long wait for their case to be heard and resolved.
- Pray the hearing will take place on 22 June and ask the Lord to help and guide Saif ul Malook and his team. Pray that justice will be sought and upheld.
- Pray for the protection of those advocating for change in the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Commit to the Lord those suffering as a result of being falsely accused.
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