The Lahore High Court acquitted Shagufta Kausar and her husband Shafqat Emmanuel, a Pakistani Christian couple sentenced to death for blasphemy seven years ago.
According to CBN News, the couple was arrested and charged with blasphemy in July 2013 for allegedly sending texts insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad to a local imam from a phone number registered under Shagufta Kausar’s name. Anyone convicted of insulting Islam, or its prophet, faces the death penalty under Pakistan's stringent blasphemy laws.
Shagufta's brother Joseph, who asked that his surname not be published, told the BBC that the couple was innocent and that he doubted they were literate enough to have authored the hateful texts.
During the couple's trial, Saif ul Malook, the couple's attorney and the man who represented Asia Bibi, speculated that a neighbor with whom the couple had a falling out could have tried to frame them by obtaining a SIM card in Shagufta's name and sending the text messages.
Shafqat informed Joseph on a visit to the jail that he had been tortured into delivering a false confession: "He told me the policeman hit [him] so hard that his leg was broken," Joseph told BBC.
William Stark, International Christian Concern's Regional Manager, said in a statement, "We here at International Christian Concern are happy to see Shafqat and Shagufta finally acquitted after nearly eight years in prison. It is great to see such a prolonged blasphemy case justly resolved. However, we remain deeply concerned for the safety of the Christian couple and their family."
Stark also explained, "Extremists in Pakistan are known to target individuals accused of religious crimes, like blasphemy, even after they have been acquitted. The abuse of Pakistan's blasphemy laws must be curbed, and false allegations must be rooted out and punished. Too often, these laws have been a tool in the hands of extremists seeking to stir up religiously motivated violence against minorities. Without reform, religious minorities will continue to face false blasphemy accusations and the violence that often accompanies these accusations."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Darrin Klimek
John Paluska has been a contributor for Christian Headlines since 2016 and is the founder of The Washington Gazette, a news outlet he relaunched in 2019 as a response to the constant distribution of fake news.