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Pakistani Christian couple’s death row appeal delayed after 6 years in prison for blasphemy

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A Pakistani Christian couple who’ve been imprisoned for six years and sentenced to death on false blasphemy charges of sending a text message insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad continue to have their conviction appeal delayed.

Shagufta Kausar and her husband, Shafqat Emmanuel, who is partially paralyzed, were accused by a local imam of committing blasphemy by sending him an offensive text message in 2013.

Maulvi Mohammed Hussain, a leader at a mosque in the town of Gojra in Punjab province, claimed that Emmanuel used his wife’s cellphone to send an anti-Islamic text message. He later claimed other messages followed.

Hussain said he was praying when he received the offensive text message from an unknown number.

The Muslim cleric reportedly showed the text message to two other imams before approaching his counsel for legal proceedings. He and his lawyer later claimed they both received subsequent blasphemous messages.

Police registered the blasphemy case following the imam’s complaint, and the couple were arrested on July 21, 2013. They were charged with “insulting the Quran” and “insulting the prophet.”

They were sentenced to separate prisons in 2014.

“Kauser is being held in the same prison cell Asia Bibi was held in before her release,” Will Stark, regional manager for South Asia at International Christian Concern, told The Christian Post on Wednesday.

“In regards to Shafqat, his medical condition has deteriorated significantly during his imprisonment,” Stark added. “This is because the jail does not provide facilities for him, as someone partially paralyzed. Bedsores and lack of nutrition are definitely issues I have seen reported specifically in regards to Shafqat’s case.”

A final hearing before the Lahore High Court was scheduled for Wednesday. However, the hearing was delayed and a new hearing date will be announced.

Kausar’s brother, Joseph, told the BBC that his sister and her husband are not only innocent, but he believes they aren’t even literate enough to have written the text messages.

Joseph also said his brother-in-law had been tortured and forced to make a false confession.

“He told me the policeman hit [him] so hard that his leg was broken,” Joseph was quoted as saying.

The text messages were also alleged to have been written in English. Aside from being illiterate, Shafqat and Shagufta are not familiar with the English language — written or spoken.

The couple’s lawyer, Saif ul Malook, who also assisted in the appeal of Asia Bibi’s blasphemy case, said the charges against Kausar and Emmanuel are “deeply flawed” and “weaker” than those levied against Bibi.

Although the phone was registered in Kausar’s name, Malook told the BBC that “in their trial, they suggested a Christian neighbor they had argued with might have purchased a SIM card in Kausar’s name and sent the messages in order to frame them.”

In 2014, Nadeem Hassan, who’s also representing the couple at the high court, said the offending messages were sent from a phone that had been lost. He further explained that a “bogus SIM card” had been presented as evidence against the couple, The Telegraph reported.

Hassan told ICC last year that the allegation is “based on religious hatred and is being used to settle personal grudges.”

Before her arrest, Kausar worked as a cleaner at a Christian school. Emmanuel has been paralyzed from the waist down since 2004, following an accident that fractured his spine. At the time of the accident, they were living with their four young children in a church compound.

The children continue to remain in hiding as their parents’ case continues, Stark said.

“Like many relatives of Christians accused of blasphemy, they live in fear that their parents’ blasphemy accusation may cause extremists to attack them,” he added.

Malook said the couple needs the same international support that Bibi received during the years she waited for her appeal to be heard. And if they’re acquitted, he said they will also need to be granted asylum.

While no one has yet been executed on blasphemy charges, people who’ve been accused of the crime have been killed by retaliatory mob violence. Allegations of blasphemy are frequently lodged to settle personal disputes and to discriminate against religious minorities.

Christians make up just 1.6% of the country’s population.

Last year, Asia Bible was acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court of blasphemy charges after she languished on death row for more than eight years. Bibi has since written a book about her ordeal.

Pakistan, a 96% Muslim-majority country, ranks as the fifth-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List. In 2018, Pakistan was also named by the U.S. State Department as a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom violations.

The couple’s appeal hearing has been rescheduled for June 22.

Sources: Christian Post

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ഭൂകമ്പം ഫിജിയെ പിടിച്ചുകുലുക്കി, റിക്ടർ സ്കെയിലിൽ 6.0 രേഖപ്പെടുത്തിയ ഭൂചലനം

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സുവ: ദ്വീപ് രാജ്യമായ ഫിജിയിൽ ഭൂചലനം. റിക്ടർ സ്‌കെയിലിൽ 6.0 തീവ്രത രേഖപ്പെടുത്തിയ ഭൂചലനത്തിൽ നാശനഷ്ടങ്ങൾ ഉണ്ടായതായി റിപ്പോർട്ടില്ല. 398 കിലോമീറ്റർ ആഴത്തിൽ പ്രകമ്പനം അനുഭവപ്പെട്ടതായി യുഎസ് ഭൗമശാസ്ത്ര കേന്ദ്രം അറിയിച്ചു. ലെവൂക്ക നഗരത്തിന് 340 കിലോമീറ്റർ കിഴക്ക് മാറിയായിരുന്നു പ്രകമ്പനം. പ്രാദേശിക സമയം രാവിലെ 11.35 ഓടെയായിരുന്നു ഭൂചലനം അനുഭവപ്പെട്ടത്. സുനാമി മുന്നറിയിപ്പുകളൊന്നും നൽകിയിട്ടില്ലെന്ന് അധികൃതർ അറിയിച്ചു. ഭൂചലനം ഉണ്ടായ വിവരം ജർമ്മൻ ജിയോസയൻസ് റിസർച്ച് സെന്ററും സ്ഥിരീകരിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്.

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Archaeologists discover rare 2,000-y-o oil lamp in Jerusalem’s City of David on Pilgrimage Road

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The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a rare oil lamp, with its wick still preserved, from under the foundation of a building erected on Jerusalem’s famed Pilgrimage Road soon after the destruction of the Second Temple almost 2,000 years ago.

The IAA researchers believe the bronze lamp, shaped like a grotesque face cut in half and estimated to be from the late first century or the early second century CE, was put in the foundation of the building in Jerusalem’s City of David for good fortune, The Times of Israel reported.

“This half of a lamp, and in fact half a face, which was discovered in the City of David, is a very rare object, with only a few discovered in the whole world, and is the first of its kind to be discovered in Jerusalem,” Yuval Baruch of the IAA was quoted as saying.

“It is possible that the importance of the building, and the need to bless its activity with luck by burying a foundation deposit, was due to its proximity to the Siloam Pool, which was also used in the Roman period as the central source of water within the city,” IAA archaeologist Ari Levy told The Jerusalem Post.

Speaking to Haaretz, Levy explained, “Foundation deposits, in general, go back to the dim reaches of antiquity. It was accepted in construction in general, to bring luck and symbolic defense of the building — and to cast fear and awe on attackers. Its significance was highly symbolic, not functional.”

Haaretz said the lamp featured a goaty male half-face complete with (half a) satyr’s beard and a horned forehead.

Only one other such lamp has ever been found in an archaeological context — and that was in Budapest, according to Levy.

Experts believe that Pilgrimage Road, where the building had been erected, is the path ancient Jews walked to reach the Temple Mount three times a year — in the festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

“The street was built during the period of Governor Pontius Pilates,” Levy said. “It was inaugurated around the year 30 CE and it was used for about 40 years until the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE.”

Baruch added: “Decorated bronze oil lamps were discovered throughout the Roman Empire. For the most part, such oil lamps stood on stylish candelabras or were hung on a chain. Collections around the world contain thousands of these bronze lamps, many of which were made in intricate shapes, indicating the artistic freedom that Roman metal artists possessed.”
Sources:Christian Post

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