Press Trust of india

Pak Christian couple on death row over blasphemy didn’t get fair trial: Aasia Bibi’s lawyer

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Lahore, May 15 :  A Pakistani Christian couple, who has been sentenced to death for sending blasphemous text messages, did not get a fair trial, said the lawyer who successfully defended Aasia Bibi in the high-profile blasphemy case.

Advocate Saiful Malook will plead for the innocence of the Christian couple, Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Masih, who was awarded death sentence by a district court in Pakistan’s Punjab province in April 2014 and also imposed a fine of Rs 100,000 each.

Kausar is the second woman after Bibi to be ordered capital punishment and is lodged in the same death cell, where Bibi was imprisoned before her acquittal in the blasphemy case last year.

The couple has appealed to the high court in Lahore.

“They did not get a fair trial,” Malook told Fox News. “They are innocent.”

Lawyer Saiful Malook, who briefly fled Pakistan after receiving death threats when Bibi’s conviction for blasphemy was overturned last October, is to appeal against the couple’s 2014 conviction under the same law.

The couple, believed to be in their late 30’s, hail from the city of Gojra in the Punjab province in Pakistan’s east, and were living with their four young children in a church compound.

Kausar was working as a cleaner and servant at the church school. Her husband is paralysed from the waist down, having fractured his spine in a 2004 accident.

According to the complainant in the couple’s case, he received an SMS containing blasphemous remarks while offering prayers at a mosque on July 18, 2013. He showed the SMS to his friends and thereafter approached his counsel for legal proceedings on the basis of the SMS.

While sitting in the office of the council, he received five more SMSes. When the counsel tried to contact the number, he (lawyer) also received three to four SMSes on his mobile phone.

The police claimed that both the convicts confessed to committing blasphemy.

After the investigation, police in its report alleged the couple was involved in the commission of an offence and would face trial.

However, the court’s order was challenged by the couple on many grounds. Their appeal contends that the witnesses produced by the prosecution during the trial were related to the complainant and were inimical’ towards them and their statements required independent corroboration which is lacking in this case.

The convicted couple also claimed that about eight to nine months prior to the case, a minor quarrel took place between their children and of the neighbour’s, who developed a grudge against them.

The texts were alleged to have been written in English, and both Kausar and Masih are illiterate and neither have a knowledge of English or its alphabet.

Kausar alleged that the neighbour succeeded in obtaining the copy of her National Identity Card (NIC) and purchased a SIM in her name and later misused that SIM and forwarded the alleged blasphemous messages to the complainant, who was in collusion with their neighbour.

Malook said there is no evidence that they either sent the texts nor purchased the incendiary chip. He also contends that Masih was forced under torture into making a bogus confession ahead of the trial.

Kausar is being held at Multan prison while her husband is imprisoned about 150 miles away at the Faisalabad District Jail. They have not seen each other since before their sentencing. Their four children, aged between nine and fifteen, are now in the care of a paternal aunt.

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