Save Shagufta and Shafqat - persecuted Pakistani Christians
Following the release of Asia Bibi, it has transpired that yet another Pakistani Christian woman is occupying the same prison cell as Asia, and also facing the death penalty on fake charges of blasphemy.
Shagufta Kauser and her disabled husband Shafqat Masih are accused of sending blasphemous text messages to a Muslim cleric despite the fact that both of them are illiterate. Not only that, but the text messages were written in English - a language that neither or them speak and nor do they have any knowledge of alphanumeric symbols.
Both Shagufta and her husband have been in prison since their arrest in 2013 and they are currently awaiting an appeal against the death sentence which was imposed by the Lahore High Court in 2014. Before their arrest Shagufta and Shafqat lived in a church compound in the city of Gojra in the Punjab province in East Pakistan where Mrs Kauser worked as a cleaner and servant at the church’s school in order to make ends meet. Mrs Kauser was the only breadwinner in the family after her husband became paralysed from the waist down in an accident in 2004.
It appears as though a copy of Mrs Kauser’s identity card was stolen from the human resources file at the church where she worked by a friend of their accuser and then used to purchase a sim card in her name from which the texts were sent. The motive for this is believed to be simmering anger following an argument between the couple's young children and their accuser's children, which took place 8 months prior to the sending of the text messages.
The prosecutors have been unable to produce any concrete evidence which would point to the couple's guilt; a sim card produced in court was found to be bogus and the phone from which the texts were sent has not beeen located. Police are relying on a bill for a sim card provided by a local shop-keeper.
After his arrest Mr Masih was tortured into making a confession at the local police station in the hope that it would spare his wife who was also being threatened with torture.
The couple are being represented by the same brave lawyer who defended Asia Bibi, Saif-ul Malook. Along with condemning the torture which Mr Masih was subjected to, Mr Malook has also expressed concerns that the judge who pronounced the death sentence was intimidated by hardline lawyers and religious leaders in the community.
Both Shagufta Kauser and her husband are reported to be experiencing severe depression having ben held apart in separate prisons for over 6 years. Furthermore a recent doctor’s report has outlined grave fears for the health of Shafqat whose back is almost destroyed from bed sores as he is confined to a prison bed from which he is unable to move.
The couple have four children aged between 9 and 15 who are in the care of their paternal aunt and who are also now in fear for their lives.
Britain sends £383,000 in aid every day to Pakistan which is supposed to alleviate the suffering and destitution of beleaguered minorities. Pakistan's blasphemy laws are often used by Muslims to target Christians and other minorities. There is still a febrile atmosphere and much resentment amongst the community as a result of Asia Bibi’s release, which is going to make it hard for the couple to receive a fair trial.
Please sign this petition asking Jeremy Hunt to intervene and secure the immediate release of Shagufta and Shafqat.
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A disabled Christian and his wife face the death penalty in Pakistan