A Pakistani Christian couple, who were acquitted of blasphemy after seven years on death row, have fled the country, as reported by CNA.
Last week, Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel received asylum in a European country that has not been named, to preserve the couple’s safety.
“We are so relieved to finally be free,” Shafqat told ADF, an organisation that advocates for religious freedom, as quoted by CNA. “The last eight years have been incredibly hard, but we are so happy to be reunited with our children,” he said.
Image: Shagufta and Shafqat were on death row for seven years, but have now fled to Europe
In June, the Lahore High Court overturned the couple’s death sentence. Since their release they have received death threats.
“Although we will miss our country, we are happy to finally be somewhere safe. Hopefully, the blasphemy laws in Pakistan will soon be abolished, so others won’t suffer the same fate as Shagufta and me,” he said.
In July 2013, Shagufta, who can’t read or write, was accused of having sent blasphemous text messages to a cleric. Shafqat, who is disabled, was forced into making a false confession after he was beaten and threats of abuse were made against his wife. In 2014 the couple were sentenced to death by hanging.
They spent the next seven years awaiting the outcome of an appeal filed by their lawyer, Saiful Malook, who also defended Asia Bibi. Bibi was released in 2018 after nine years on death row for allegedly committing blasphemy in an argument with a Muslim woman. After her release, she also fled the country for fear of her life and moved with her family to Canada.
Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws are used to target Christians, and Islamic extremist groups vehemently ‘defend’ these laws, including attacking or killing those believed to have broken them. Often these are used to target Christians after a dispute relating to work or tenancy, rather than genuine cases.
Pakistan is number 5 on the Open Doors World Watch List, and Christians make up less than two per cent of the population.
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