Pakistan: Couple escape to Europe after years on death row for blasphemy
by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – A couple who spent seven years on death row in Pakistan for alleged blasphemy have been helped to escape the threat of further Islamic extremist violence and have found refuge in Europe, Christian Today (CT) reports.
Residents of the Toba Tek Singh district in Pakistan’s Punjab Province, Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife Shagufta Kausar were charged with blasphemy in 2014 after local imam Maulvi Mohammed Hussain accused them of sending him a number of anti-Islamic text messages, CT reports. Emmanuel was employed as the watchman of a school in the Gojra area of Punjab at the time.
The couple was arrested and taken into custody, where Emmanuel was tortured into giving a false confession. “At the time of my arrest, there were many police officers,” Emmanuel told Austria-based ADF International, the organization which helped the couple to leave Pakistan. “They threw me to the ground and beat me badly. Then they took me to a room and hung me upside down,” Emmanuel said.
A trial followed, and the couple was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. However, they remained on death row pending an appeal and were finally acquitted last year. Their release from prison proved dangerous as they were immediately targeted with death threats by local Islamic extremists. The two were helped to safety by ADF International, which has produced a documentary recording their story.
In a statement to ChristianToday, ADF documentary maker Emma Webb said: “The persecution of blasphemers is not something of the past, nor is it as far away as we allow ourselves to think. Shagufta and Shafqat’s faith in the face of death is not only harrowing and miraculous. It serves as a warning to complacent Western nations of the real, often murderous, consequences accusations of blasphemy carry — as we just saw in New York, in the attempted murder of author Salman Rushdie.”
With extremely harsh and widely abused blasphemy laws, Islamic-majority Pakistan ranks eighth on the US Open Doors World Watch List 2022 of the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted.
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