Pakistan: Christian Couple Sentenced to Death for Sending Blasphemous Texts on Mohammad
Pakistan: Christian Couple Sentenced to Death for Sending Blasphemous Texts on MohammadReuters

A Christian couple have been sentenced to death for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages about Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.

Shafqat Maseeh, 38, who works as a watchman in the Saint Cathedral School in Gojra, and his wife Shagufta Maseeh, 42, were arrested in July last year, following a complaint by shopkeeper Malik Mohammad Hussain and local authority Anwar Mansoor Goraya.

The additional district and sessions court judge Amer Habib pronounced the verdict in the district jail, where the case was heard.

Apart from the death sentence, each of the accused has also been ordered to pay a penalty of 100,000 Pakistani Rupees (£615).

Lawyers representing the couple and rights groups have argued that the duo were not involved in sending the blasphemous messages and accused the complainants of malpractice.

"They [complainants Hussain and Goraya] were reading verses from the Koran. They also said that if the court wouldn't sentence them to death, they would make sure they would be killed the same way as other opponents of the blasphemy legislation," said Farrukh Said, the executive director of the Pakistan-based World Vision in Progress, according to local news.

The latest ruling has come within days of a similar sentence in which another Christian was given the death penalty under blasphemy charges.

Blasphemy charges involving any insult to Islam or impersonation of religious figures are severely dealt with in Pakistan. Rights groups have criticised Pakistani authorities' handling of blasphemy cases. The issue of blasphemy also triggers outrage among Pakistani Muslims, who constitute the majority in the country.

Local politicians who have called for changes to the blasphemy law have been murdered in the country.