Christian Couple Acquitted of “Blasphemy” Charges in Pakistan
A Christian couple who have been on death row in Pakistan since being convicted of “blasphemy” in 2014 have been acquitted of all charges in an appeal hearing at Lahore High Court.
Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife, Shagufta Kausar (also known as Shagufta Masih), were accused of sending blasphemous text messages, despite the fact that both are illiterate.
The couple, who have four children, have always denied the charges against them.
They were sentenced to death in April 2014 under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s Penal Code, which since a constitutional court decision in 1991, has stipulated a mandatory death sentence for “derogatory remarks” against Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.
In May 2021 the European Parliament drew attention to the plight of Shafqat and Shagufta, noting the lack of evidence with which to sustain their convictions.
Pakistan’s notorious “blasphemy” laws (Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code) are often used to make false accusations in order to settle personal grudges. Christians are especially vulnerable, as simply stating their beliefs can be construed as “blasphemy,” and the lower courts usually favor the testimony of Muslims, in accordance with sharia (Islamic law).
Accusations frequently trigger mob violence and even killings. Christians acquitted of allegations live in fear of attack by zealous Muslim extremists and often can no longer return to live in their homes.