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Christian couple charged with blasphemy

Latest case in Punjab follows life sentence last week
Christian couple charged with blasphemy

A Christian woman and child walk past a religious poster in Gojra, which has a history of Christian-Muslim clashes (2012 file photo: AFP/Arif Ali) 

Published: July 23, 2013 06:34 AM GMT
Updated: July 22, 2013 08:40 PM GMT

Police in Gojra, Punjab province, have charged a Christian couple with blasphemy. This comes a week after a Christian man was sentenced to life in prison in the same town after being found guilty of defaming the Prophet Mohammed.

Shafgat Masih, who is handicapped, and his wife Shagufta Kosar, a maid at a school, were detained on Saturday and charged with sending text messages containing blasphemous content, a police officer said on the condition of anonymity. Following a court hearing on Monday they were held in jail.

“The couple is under arrest and an investigation is being carried out by the police,” the officer added.

The arrest was made on the complaint of local Muslim cleric Maulana Muhammad Hussain Atari, who claimed he received a text message that contained derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed, according to police.

Other people also reported receiving blasphemous texts from Kosar’s phone, Pakistan Today reported, and Masih has “admitted” sending the texts.

Police raided the couple’s house, seized their mobile phone and moved them to an undisclosed location.

In last week's case Sajjad Masih (no relation), a Christian also from Gojra, was sentenced to life in prison and fined US$2,000 after sending a text message to a Muslim man defaming Islam in December, 2011.

Relations between minority Christians and Muslims in Gojra became strained in 2009 when a mob set a Christian neighborhood on fire, leaving eight people dead including women and children. Trouble flared again last August when a teenage Christian girl was charged with blasphemy. 

Since 1988, more than 1,000 cases have been filed in Pakistan alleging the desecration of the Qu’ran and making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

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