Asia Bibi's lawyer to defend Christian couple on death row over blasphemy

Islamabad, PakistanUpdated: May 12, 2019, 10:39 AM IST

File photo. Photograph:(AFP)

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Their appeal is pending in the Lahore High Court (LHC) and a hearing is likely to be fixed soon.

A Pakistani lawyer who defended Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman freed from gallows by the Supreme Court in a high-profile blasphemy case last year, will defend couple on death row for similar charges, a media report said on Saturday.

Advocate Saiful Malook will plead for the innocence of Christian couple, Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Masih, who was awarded death sentence by a district court in Punjab in April 2014 and also imposed a fine of Rs 100,000 each, the Express Tribune reported.

Their appeal is pending in the Lahore High Court (LHC) and a hearing is likely to be fixed soon.

Malook said that he has submitted his Vakalatnama in the LHC to plead the case of the couple, saying that he already met Kausar in Multan jail, the paper reported.

Malook's decision to defend the young couple came days after Bibi left the country and reunited with her family in Canada. 

Bibi, a mother of four from Punjab province, was taken out of the Muslim-majority country after repeated death threats from religious extremists, following the quashing of her conviction for blasphemy last year.

The 47-year-old mother of four was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. She always maintained her innocence but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.

Kausar is also lodged in the same death cell, where Bibi was imprisoned before her acquittal in the blasphemy case last year.    

Malook who was offered citizenship by EU countries played down threats to his security. 

He said that he was working for human causes; therefore, he was not worried about his security.

According to the complainant in the couple's case, he received an SMS containing blasphemous remarks while offering prayers at a mosque on July 18, 2013. 

He showed the SMS to his friends and thereafter approached his counsel for legal proceedings on the basis of the SMS. 

While sitting in the office of the council, he received five more SMS. When the counsel tried to contact the number, he (lawyer) also received three to four SMS on his mobile phone, the paper reported.

The police claimed that both the convicts confessed to committing blasphemy. 

After the investigation, police in its report alleged the couple was involved in the commission of an offence and would face trial.

Following the trial, the couple was convicted and awarded death sentence on April 4, 2014.     

However, the court's order was challenged by the couple on many grounds, the report said. 

Their appeal contends that the witnesses produced by the prosecution during the trial were related to the complainant and were "inimical" towards them and their statements required independent corroboration which is lacking in this case.

The convicted couple also claimed that about eight to nine months prior to the case, a minor quarrel took place between their children and of the neighbour's, who developed a grudge against them.

Kausar was working at the Bishop Compound and the copy of her national identity card was available in the record of the Bishop Compound, where the neighbour was also working.

They alleged that the neighbour succeeded in obtaining the copy of her NIC and purchased the SIM in her name and later misused that SIM and forwarded the alleged blasphemous SMS to the complainant, who was in collusion with their neighbour, the paper said.     

After the passage of five years, the appeal was fixed before the LHC division bench on February 7, but it was left over. 

It is learned that the matter will be relisted soon, the paper reported.