Pakistani Christian Couple Sentenced to Death for 'Blasphemy'

Monday, April 7, 2014

By Joseph DeCaro

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)-- A Christian couple in Pakistan's Punjab Province was sentenced to death Friday for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages, according to Morning Star News.

The sentencing of Shafqat and Shugufta Emmanuel came only one week after a court in Lahore had sentenced Sawan Masih to death for allegedly insulting Islam's prophet during a drunken conversation with a Muslim friend. All three Christians join Asia Bibi, a Christian mother who was sentenced to death for an alleged blasphemy back in November 2010, yet still remains on death row.

Emmanuel and his wife were both accused of sending blasphemous text messages last June from a number allegedly registered in his name. The Gojra City Police in Punjab charged the couple with blasphemy under Sections 295-B: insulting the Koran, which is punishable by life imprisonment and 295-C: insulting Muhammad, which is punishable by death.

The Emmanuel's lawyer, Nadeem Hassan, said that in order to appease the mobs led by Islamist clerics, police forced Shafqat Emmanuel -- who is confined to a wheelchair from a spinal injury -- to confess to having sentt the blasphemous messages.

"The police tortured Shafqat to confess before a judicial magistrate, but the crippled man retracted his statement when we requested the session judge to record his statement again," he said.

Hassan -- who had told the court that his clients couldn't possibly have written the alleged texts written in Roman Urdu as they couldn't read or write proper Urdu -- said he would challenge the verdict in High Court.

Farrukh Harrison, of the Christian advocacy group World Vision in Progress, told Morning Star News that his group had protested the court’s bias from the trial's beginning.

"Judge Habib simply refused to accept our submissions regarding insufficient evidence presented by the prosecution," Harrison said.

Harrison also questioned why the judge had given the death sentence to both the husband and wife even though they had forced a confession from only Shafqat.