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Disabled Christian man facing death for blasphemy seeks bail in Pakistan

Saturday, Feb 7, 2015,19:23 IST By metro vaartha A A A

Lahore | A disabled Pakistani Christian man, who along with his wife has been sentenced to death for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages to a local cleric, has filed an appeal in the High Court here, seeking bail on account of his bad health condition.
Shafqat Masih, who is paralysed waist down, and his wife Shagufta, who are in their 40s, were sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy by a sessions court of Toba Tek Singh district of Punjab Province in April 2014. Shafqat yesterday filed a petition in the the Lahore High Court for suspension of his sentence till the final decision on his appeal.
I have developed bedsores and I may die in jail as there is no possibility of a better treatment there, he pleaded in the petition. He further said: There are serious contradictions in witness accounts against me and my wife and we are hopeful of an acquittal on our appeal. The court has fixed March 5 for the hearing of his petition. Shafqat and his wife Shagufta, who was working as a maid in a Church school, were accused of sending blasphemous text messages in July, 2013 to a local cleric even though they claimed that they are illiterate.
Local police registered a blasphemy case against the couple on the complaint of the cleric and a lawyer. An NGO, the World Vision in Progress, is defending the couple and looking after their four children, three sons and a daughter aged between six and 12. It alleged that the police had tortured Shafqat and made him confess the crime. There was no evidence that the text messages came from a phone owned by the couple.
In the first place they had lost the phone some months before July, 2013 and secondly there was no SIM card in their names. The only evidence police produced was a bill for a SIM card from a shop owner which is unheard of, said Farukh Saif, an official of the NGO. The couple were earlier living in Gojra and they had to be moved to Toba Tek Singh after huge protests over the alleged blasphemy incident.
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in the majority-Muslim country, with even unproven allegations often prompting violence. In 2009, six Christians were burned alive in Gojra, some 200 kilometers from here, when hundreds of Muslims attacked and looted their homes, sparked by rumours that the Quran had been desecrated.

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