Wednesday, Sep 24, 2014

Christian couple in Pakistan sentenced to death over ‘blasphemous’ text

Press Trust of India | Lahore | Posted: April 5, 2014 5:09 pm

A Christian couple in Pakistan has been sentenced to death for sending blasphemous text messages to two persons. A court in eastern Pakistan also slapped a fine of Rs 100,000 each on Shafqat Masih and his wife Shagufta Masih.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Amer Habib handed down the punishment on Friday to the couple, residents of Gojra of Toba Tek Singh (TTS) district of Punjab.

The verdict was pronounced at the district jail TTS, where the trial was held for eight months owing to security reasons. Shafqat, 44, and his wife Shagufta sent a blasphemous text message insulting Prophet Muhammad, according to the FIR lodged against them on the complaints of cleric Malik Muhammad Hussain and a former Gojra tehsil bar president Anwar Mansoor Goraya. They were arrested on July 25 last year.

“Although Shafqat confessed to have sent the objectionable message to the Muslims before the police because of fear of more torture but he and his wife denied the charges in the court,” the couple’s lawyer Nadim Hasan said.

He said the couple had been framed by the accused because of personal enmity. The couple would challenge the verdict in the High Court. Gojra has a history of violence against Christians.

A young Christian girl from Gojra had to leave the country for the UK after she was accused by a local cleric that she sent him a blasphemous message last year. The police arrested her cousin instead.

In 2009, a mob attacked a Christian community in Gojra and burned dozens of houses after rumours that the Holy Quran had
been desecrated. At least seven Christians were killed in the incident.

Christians of Gojra feel vulnerable and blame the Muslim clerics in neighbourhood for exploiting them on religious grounds.

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