Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, acquitted of blasphemy charges after spending seven years on death row in Pakistan, have been granted asylum in Europe.
The couple was accused of sending text messages that insulted the Prophet to a local Muslim cleric from a phone number registered in Kausar’s name. Kausar’s brother told the BBC in 2020 that his sister and her husband were not sufficiently literate to have written the blasphemous messages.
Kausar worked as a caretaker in a Christian school, and her husband is partially paralyzed, their lawyer told the BBC.
A court in Lahore cited lack of evidence and overturned their 2014 conviction on charges of blaspheming against the Prophet.
The case against the Christian couple led the European Union Parliament to call for an end to trade exemptions for exports from Pakistan because of the country’s failure to curb mounting blasphemy charges and repeal its blasphemy laws.
The couple, who have four children, were released from prison July 1.
They arrived in an undisclosed European country in August, according to ADF International, a global faith-based legal advocacy organization dedicated to protecting fundamental freedoms and human rights. The location has not been released to protect the family from possible reprisals.
“Although we will miss our country, we are happy to finally be somewhere safe,” said Emmanuel. “Hopefully, the blasphemy laws in Pakistan will soon be abolished so others won’t suffer the same fate.”
“We are delighted that Shagufta and Shafqat have, at long last, been released and have reached safety,” said Tehmina Arora, ADF International Director of Advocacy in Asia. “Sadly, their case is not an isolated incident but testifies to the plight many Christians and other religious minorities experience in Pakistan today…many face severe persecution and denial of their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly.”
In 2010, Christian Asia Bibi was sentenced to death for blasphemy. She spent eight years in solitary confinement, and her plight in prison attracted international attention, with a movement for her release gaining the support of more than 700,000 people. Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted Bibi in 2018, unleashing violence by Islamist hardliners that led to the deaths of the judges who acquitted her.
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