A Pakistani Christian couple is safely in Europe after they were acquitted of charges that had them on death row for seven years.
The couple, Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife, Shagufta Kausar, had been convicted of blasphemy in 2014. They were accused of sending text messages insulting the prophet Muhammad to a local imam from a phone number registered to Shagufta's name.
They were sentenced to death.
During the trial, the couple's attorney, Saif-ul-Malook, said that a neighbor the couple had previously had a disagreement with may have attempted to frame the couple by purchasing a SIM card in Shagufta's name and sending the text messages.
"I am just happy to get justice for this couple," Malook told ICC. "It's a bogus case. All judges are afraid. Nobody wants to hear their case and keeps tossing it to another bench."
In June, a court acquitted the couple of the charges, and they were allowed to claim asylum in Europe. They arrived on the continent last week.
"We are delighted that Shagufta and Shafqat have, at long last, been released and have reached safety. Sadly, their case is not an isolated incident but testifies to the plight that many Christians and other religious minorities experience in Pakistan today," said Tehmina Arora with Alliance Defending Freedom International. "While the right to religious freedom is protected by the Pakistani constitution, many face severe persecution and denial of their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly."
Shafqat said he will miss his home country of Pakistan but noted that he is glad to be safe.
"We are so relieved to finally be free," he said. "The last eight years have been incredibly hard, but we are so happy to be reunited with our children. We are very grateful that so many people, especially the teams from ADF International and the Jubilee Campaign, helped and protected us by bringing us to safety. Although we will miss our country, we are happy to finally be somewhere safe. Hopefully, the blasphemy laws in Pakistan will soon be abolished, so others won't suffer the same fate as Shagufta and I."
Photo courtesy: Sameer Akhtari/Unsplash
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.