Date:  June 3, 2020

A Pakistani Christian couple’s appeal against a “blasphemy” conviction begins in the High Court in Lahore on 3 June.

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Appeal judges will be told that Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar couldn't have sent "blasphemous" text messages because they can't read or write

Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, a married couple with four children, have endured six years in prison on death row after being convicted in April 2014 of sending “blasphemous” text messages to two Muslims. They are illiterate and say they were incapable of sending the messages.

The division bench hearing the appeal will be led by Justice Shahbaz Ali Rizvi, the same judge who upheld the death sentence of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of “blasphemy” in 2009. The Supreme Court set aside Aasia’s conviction and acquitted her in October 2018.

Aasia’s lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook, took up the case of Shafqat, who is disabled, and his wife Shagufta in May 2019. He will tell the High Court the couple are innocent and did not receive a fair trial.

Saif-ul-Mulook was forced to flee Pakistan briefly after receiving death threats when Aasia Bibi was acquitted. The Christian mother-of-five, who spent nearly eight years on death row, has since resettled with her family in Canada.