LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) – A Pakistani court adjourned Wednesday without hearing a much-anticipated appeal from a Christian couple facing the death penalty in the past seven years after being convicted of blasphemy, a lawyer from defense.
Lawyer Saiful Malook said the couple’s appeal was not heard until the court session ended. He calls for the release and annulment of the death sentences for Shagufta Kausar and her husband Shafqat Emmanuel. Both were found guilty of insulting the Prophet of Islam Muhammad.
The court has not set any new date to hear the case, which has attracted international attention, but Malook has said he will request a new hearing date.
“I have the impression that the judges do not want to hear this case for unexplained reasons,” he said.
The couple were arrested in 2013 on suspicion of sending a blasphemous text message to a local cleric in eastern Punjab province, an allegation they have denied.
The two were tried and sentenced to death by a court in 2014. Since then, their appeals have been pending before the High Court in Lahore.
This development comes hours after Amnesty International called on the Pakistani authorities to immediately release the Christian couple.
In a statement, Samira Hamidi, Amnesty’s Deputy Regional Director for South Asia, also called on Pakistan “to urgently repeal its blasphemy laws which have been blatantly violated and have caused immeasurable harm. “.
Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, anyone accused of insulting Islam or other religious figures can be sentenced to death if found guilty. Although the authorities have not yet carried out a death sentence for blasphemy, only the blasphemy charge can cause riots in Pakistan.
According to national and international human rights groups, allegations of blasphemy in Pakistan have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.
A Punjab governor was killed by his own guard in 2011 after defending a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, accused of blasphemy. She was acquitted after spending eight years in the death row and left Pakistan for Canada to join her family after receiving threats.
Associated Press writer Asim Tanveer contributed to this story from Multan, Pakistan.