08 April 2014, The Tablet

Illiterate Pakistani Christian couple sentenced to death ‘for texting’

Christians and human rights groups in Pakistan have been stunned by a second blasphemy death sentence for Christians within a week – on this occasion to an illiterate couple.

Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife Shagufta Kausar were sentenced to death on a trumped up blasphemy charge on 4 April – even before protests died down following the 27 March death sentence given to a Catholic, Savan Masih, in similarly fabricated circumstances.

CLAAS (The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement), that provides legal assistance to those charged with blasphemy, in a press statement condemned the latest death sentence.

The Christian couple, the CLAAS pointed out, were illiterate but convicted of sending a blasphemous text message in English from their mobile phone that they had reported stolen.

“We are not surprised by such verdicts. The trial courts are under pressure to convict the accused,” Fr Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the Catholic Church's National Commission for Justice and Peace told The Tablet.

David Cameron said during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons today that he would raise the blasphemy laws with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif.

Meanwhile, a report by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan, in its report released on 6 April, has highlighted that 1,000 young women – 700 of them Christian and 300 Hindus – are forced to convert and marry Muslim men in Pakistan every year.

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