Pakistani Christian Couple to Appeal Death Sentence for Blasphemy

Amanda Casanova | Contributor | Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pakistani Christian Couple to Appeal Death Sentence for Blasphemy

An illiterate Christian couple who have been sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan will appeal the ruling.

The sentencing came Friday for Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife, Shagufta Kausar. Emmanuel is disabled and Kausar is a waitress. They were arrested in July 2013.

"We are seriously concerned. Cases like these are common and cause great suffering. We continue to pray, while the issue remains unresolved," Fr. Aloysius Roy, Superior of the Pakistani province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, told Fides News Agency.

Lawyers who are appealing the ruling said that the Sim card from where the messages were sent was not registered to the couple. Authorities have not said what the text message said.

World Vision in Progress, a humanitarian group, said it will look after the couple’s four children.

"Since the blasphemy laws were enacted in 1986, Christians and other religious minorities have been disproportionately accused and convicted of blasphemy. In 2013, 36 individuals were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan," said William Stark, regional manager for South Asia International Christian Concern.

"Of that 36, 30 were religious minorities, 12 of which were Christians. Given that Christians only make up 2 percent of Pakistan's population, the fact that one third of blasphemy accusations made in 2013 were leveled against Christians is telling,” he added.

The death sentences are not expected to be carried out soon because of a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in Pakistan.