A court has sentenced a Christian couple to death for sending a blasphemous text message insulting Islam’s Prophet, their lawyer said Saturday.
Judge Mian Amir Habib handed the death sentence to Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar in a jail in the town of Toba Tek Singh on Friday, said defense lawyer Nadeem Hassan. Prosecution department officials confirmed the sentence.
The impoverished couple, who are in their forties, have three children and live in the town of Gojra, which has a history of violence against Christians, Hassan said. Both denied the charges, Hassan said, adding that they would appeal the sentence.
Maulvi Mohammad Hussain, the prayer leader at a local mosque in Gojra, lodged a complaint against the couple on July 21 last year for sending him a text message which he said was insulting to Islam’s Prophet. Hussain accused the husband of sending the message from his wife’s cellphone.
However, defense lawyer Hassan said that the text originated from a cellphone that the couple had lost some time before the incident, so they could not have sent the message. The defense lawyer said that the couple had suspected rivals of implicating them in the blasphemy case to settle personal scores, adding that they had ties with the complainant.
In 2009 a mob attacked a Christian neighborhood in Gojra and burned 77 houses and killed at least seven people after rumors that a Quran had been desecrated.
On March 27 another Christian man Sawan Masih was sentenced to death in Lahore for insulting Islam’s Prophet during the course of a conversation with a Muslim friend in the Joseph Colony neighborhood in March last year.
Some 97 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million population are Muslim, and even unproven allegations can trigger a violent public response.