Couple’s appeal against blasphemy sentence postponed

Published February 25, 2021
The court set no new date to hear the case, which has drawn international attention, but the lawyer said he would apply for a new hearing date. — AFP/File
The court set no new date to hear the case, which has drawn international attention, but the lawyer said he would apply for a new hearing date. — AFP/File

LAHORE: A court on Wednesday adjourned without hearing a much-awaited appeal from a Christian couple facing death penalty for the last seven years after being convicted of blasphemy, a defense lawyer said.

The lawyer said the couple’s appeal was not heard before the court’s session ended. He is seeking the release and overturning of death penalty sentences for the couple (names withheld). The two were convicted of uttering blasphemous sentences.

The court set no new date to hear the case, which has drawn international attention, but the lawyer said he would apply for a new hearing date.

“I have an impression as if the judges don’t want to hear this case due to unexplained reasons,” he said.

The couple was arrested in 2013 on suspicion of sending a blasphemous text message to a local cleric, an allegation they denied.

The two were tried and sentenced to death by a court in 2014. Since then, their appeals have been pending in the Lahore High Court.

The development comes hours after Amnesty International asked the government to immediately release the Christian couple.

In a statement, Samira Hamidi, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for South Asia, also asked the government to urgently repeal its blasphemy laws that have been flagrantly abused and caused an immeasurable amount of harm. According to domestic and international human rights groups, blasphemy allegations in Pakistan have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and to settle personal scores.

Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer was killed by his own guard in 2011 after he defended a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy. She was acquitted after spending eight years on death row and left Pakistan for Canada to join her family after receiving threats.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2021

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