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Courtesy of ADF International
Courtesy of ADF International
World News

Pakistani Christians granted asylum in Europe after release from death row

A Pakistani Christian couple, who had been on death row for seven years on false blasphemy charges, have safely arrived in Europe.

Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel were sentenced to death by hanging in 2014. However, Lahore High Court overturned their death sentence in early June.

Once news of their acquittal broke, the couple who have four children, faced death threats.

Tehmina Arora, Director of Advocacy, Asia with ADF International, a human rights organisation supporting the couple, told Premier, the family couldn't safely remain in their native country.

"It was not safe for them to be roaming freely in Pakistan, there were very deep concerns about their security, and not only their security. In fact, the lawyer who was representing them, even his security, there were threats against him. And we know that these threats are real, several other people who have been on death row charged with blasphemy have been killed. So these threats were very real. So they were in hiding, even after their release from prison. And yet, thankfully, we can now say they have been able to leave the country, and are now in this safe zone."

The couple's ordeal began in 2013. They had been living in poverty with their children in a mission compound of the Gojra Church in Punjab, Pakistan. On 18 June 2013, allegedly blasphemous text messages, were sent to a cleric and a lawyer from a phone allegedly registered in Shagufta Kausar's name. 

Kausar and her husband Shafqat Emmanuel were arrested and charged with blasphemy on 21 July 2013. 

The couple are illiterate and according to ADF International would not have been able to write any text messages. Kauser claimed that her phone had been missing for a month at the time of the incident. It is uncertain who sent the messages and for what reason, 

Shagufta and Shafqat are said to be incredibly relieved to have finally been acquitted of the unfounded blasphemy charges.

"The couple obviously are thrilled. Shafqat is in a wheelchair, he needed medical assistance. So for them to be able to receive that medical assistance, and just the relief of being able to be reunited with their family, they are extremely grateful to the fact that justice prevailed for them. They're grateful to be out and grateful even to be out of the country now," Arora continued.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and though no one has been formally executed for it, dozens have been killed by mobs after being accused of the crime.

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