Court sets hearing date for Christian couple sentenced to death on blasphemy charges five years ago
A Punjab court convicted Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Masih in April 2014. She is in Multan Prison, in the same cell that lodged Asia Bibi. The couple was punished for a dispute between children.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – After five years of waiting, the Lahore High Court has set a date to hear the appeal of a Christian couple sentenced to death on blasphemy charges. Judge Qasim Muhammad Khan will take up the matter on 25 June.
The Christian couple’s defence lawyer is Saif-ul Malook, who represented Asia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy charges after spending nine years in prison. For Christians, the High Court decision comes as a relief.
On 4 April 2014, the District Court in Toba Tek Singh, Punjab, sentenced Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Masih to the death under Section 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code, commonly referred to as the “blasphemy law” ", which punishes the “Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet”, i.e. Muhammad, with the death penalty.
Their accuser, a Gojra resident called Muhammad Hussain, says that on 18 July 2013 he received a text message with blasphemous remarks on his mobile phone whilst praying in the mosque.
As a result of the accusations made against them, the couple was convicted and sentenced to death, but filed an appeal for release claiming that the evidence presented against them was insufficient.
The defendants say that the blasphemy charge was made to punish them over a dispute eight months earlier between their children and those of their neighbours.
The latter developed a grudge against the couple, and are believed to have obtained a copy of the wife’s national identity card from her place of work, which was used to buy a phone card to send the incriminating text messages.
The defendants’ lawyer, Saif-ul Malook, filed a request for revision before the High Court. To do so, he returned to Pakistan after fleeing to Europe following death threats from Islamic radicals for defending Asia Bibi. In Europe he received offers of citizenships.
Malook met Kausar in Multan prison and said that she is in the same cell that lodged Asia Bibi before the Supreme Court acquitted her.