A Pakistani Christian couple who’ve been imprisoned for six years and sentenced to death on false blasphemy charges of sending a text message insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad continue to have their conviction appeal delayed.
Shagufta Kausar and her husband, Shafqat Emmanuel, who is partially paralyzed, were accused by a local imam of committing blasphemy by sending him an offensive text message in 2013.
Maulvi Mohammed Hussain, a leader at a mosque in the town of Gojra in Punjab province, claimed that Emmanuel used his wife’s cellphone to send an anti-Islamic text message. He later claimed other messages followed.
Hussain said he was praying when he received the offensive text message from an unknown number.
The Muslim cleric reportedly showed the text message to two other imams before approaching his counsel for legal proceedings. He and his lawyer later claimed they both received subsequent blasphemous messages.
Police registered the blasphemy case following the imam’s complaint, and the couple were arrested on July 21, 2013. They were charged with “insulting the Quran” and “insulting the prophet.”
They were sentenced to separate prisons in 2014.
According to some reports, “[Kauser] is being held in the same prison cell Asia Bibi was held in before her release,” Will Stark, regional manager for South Asia at International Christian Concern, told The Christian Post on Wednesday.
“In regards to Shafqat, his medical condition has deteriorated significantly during his imprisonment,” Stark added. “This is because the jail does not provide facilities for him, as someone partially paralyzed. Bedsores and lack of nutrition are definitely issues I have seen reported specifically in regards to Shafqat’s case.”
According to the BBC, a final hearing before the Lahore High Court was scheduled for Wednesday. However, the hearing was delayed and a new hearing date will be announced.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Melissa Barnhart