Pakistan Judge Orders Execution of Christian Couple

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A judge in Pakistan has sentenced a Christian couple to death on false charges of blasphemy.

The judge ordered their execution after convicting them for sending a text message critical of the Islamic prophet Mohammed.

Rampaging Muslim mobs are often seen in Pakistan when adherents of the Islamic faith are offended. Irate militants riot and are ready to beat and kill anyone simply accused of blasphemy against their holy book, faith, or prophet.

That was the response last July when an imam in the city of Gojra accused Christians Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife Shagufta of texting him a blasphemous message against Mohammed.

Police arrested and jailed the couple.

Keith Davies, with Rescue Christians, told CBN News the allegations against the two are bogus.

"The wife cannot write--she's illiterate. The husband is a cripple from his waist down, can't move, and they had a cell phone that they lost and they reported it to the owner of the store," Davies explained. "The store manager testified in court (twice) that it was reported stolen and was reported missing to him."

Despite a lack of evidence, Shafqat and his wife were sentenced to death.

Davies alleges that Muslim extremists either bribed or intimidated both the prosecutor and judge assigned to the case.

"We had people who had private meetings with the judge who said, 'Are you crazy? I have to convict, I have to sentence them to death otherwise I'll be killed.'"

Like Davies, Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, believes the Christian couple will eventually be released.

"For now the couple will sit in prison for the next five to six years until it reaches a high court," King said. "They're often released then if they're not killed in prison, though. In the meantime, what happens with their kids?"

Davies said the children haven't seen their parents since the arrest nine months ago.

"They've also been threatened with death because extremists there want to kill the whole family. And their grandfather has expressed concern about his ability to care for these children in the long term," he said.

"He's 86-years old," Davies said. "So he's not in a position to provide aid and to bring these children up. But our organization has the ability to help these children."

Davies told CBN News Rescue Christians is caring for the children at a secret location.

Pakistani Christians Shafqat and Shagufta are not alone. Others, like Asia Bibi, still waste away in prison--also accused of blasphemy, also sentenced to death.

"You know, cases like this and some others make a lot of noise and they get some attention but the tragedy is there are so many more and they are sitting quietly, no one knows about them," King said.

So, what can be done? Both King and Davies say the U.S. government gives millions of dollars each year to Pakistan. With that money comes political leverage to gain the release of those like Shafqat and Shagufta.

"Our goal is to secure their release and we're going to put as much pressure as we possibly can to try and do that," Davies insisted.

"We all know to pray, but at the same time we need to get on the phone with our legislators and say what is going on," King explained. "Without political pressure, strong political pressure from the United States, it's not going to happen."

To view Gary Lane's full interviews with Keith Davies and Jeff King, visit his blog, Pakistan Judge: Death to Christians.

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