Name: Shagufta Kausar (F) and Shafqat Emmanuel (M)
Country/Area of Origin: Pakistan
Background: Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel are a Pakistani Christian couple who, prior to their arrest, lived with their four young children in a Christian community in Gojra, Punjab. Shagufta has been the sole breadwinner of the family since her husband Shafqat became paralyzed in 2004 following an accident in which he sustained severe damage to his spinal cord.
Reason for Arrest:
In mid-2013, Shagufta and Shafqat were accused by a local Muslim leader, Muhammad Hussain, of sending him a blasphemous text message written in English. After consulting with his lawyer, the two individuals claimed they received a few more similar blasphemous text messages from “a phone allegedly registered in Shagufta’s name.” [Church in Chains].
Police detained Shagufta and Shafqat and charged them with “insulting the Qur’an” and “insulting the Prophet,” otherwise, engaging in blasphemy. In 2014, the couple was sentenced to death by a court in Toba Tek Singh, Punjab. The couple has filed to appeal their charges.
The charges brought against Shagufta and Shafqat are dubious for a number of reasons. Firstly, the phone registered in Shagufta’s name has not been recovered for investigation; secondly, the couple is unable to speak or read English, making it impossible for them to send the alleged texts written in English; lastly, Shagufta and Shafqat have allegedly previously been involved in an argument with their accuser half a year before the accusation was brought against them.
- In February 2021, the couple’s court date for the appeal was once again postponed to the second week of April.
- Shagufta and Shafqat’s appeal at the Lahore High Court was set for June 22, 2020. The judge however, delayed the couple’s hearing again to September.
- Due to the spread of COVID-19 the couple’s case was repeatedly postponed earlier as Pakistani courts were closed.
- The couple’s lawyer, Saiful Malook- who had been the lawyer of Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi who was acquitted of blasphemy charges after a decade in prison- believes that the court’s decision will be favourable to Shagufta and Shafqat.