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In a stunning development in Muslim-majority Pakistan, a court has sentenced to death five extremist Muslims fo the murder of a Christian husband and wife who were burned to ashes in a kiln.

The report comes from the American Center for Law and Justice, which has been fighting the nation’s draconian penalties for blaspheming Muhammad or desecrating the Quran.

The penalties often are applied irrespective of innocence.

In this case, Shahzad and his wife Shama were accused of desecrating Quranic text.

ACLJ explained: “As we reported in 2014, Shahzad, his wife, and parents worked at the brick kiln of Yousaf Gujjar for about 13 years. On November 3, 2014, while cleaning her house, Shama found some papers that belonged to her father-in-law who had died a week prior to the incident. She gathered all those papers; some of the papers were printed in Arabic. Shama was illiterate and did not know whether those papers contained anything of religious nature. She burned all of them together (a common way of disposing of papers).

“Her Muslim neighbors saw her burning the papers. They informed the brick kiln owner’s son that Shama had burned the Quran. The owner’s son called Shama and Shahzad to his office, locked them inside, and beat them.

“A local fruit vendor found out about this and told the imam of the mosque. The imam then sent out a message to the adjacent villages’ mosques and announced at his own mosque that a Christian had burned the Quran. About six or seven villages received the news and the call to attack the couple.

“On November 4, 2014, at about 6:30 a.m., an enraged mob of about 4,000 Muslims gathered. They attacked the office where the couple was detained. The mob beat the couple and then threw them in the burning kiln.”

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”

ACLJ called it a “major victory and a rare instance where Pakistani Muslims are brought to justice for the atrocious persecution of Christians.”

The mob chanted “Allahu Akbar” while the couple burned, and it remained at the scene until their bodies were consumed, ACLJ reported.

“Today, staff at the Organization for Legal Aid (OLA), office of our affiliate, European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), saw the breaking news of the convictions and informed us about it,” ACLJ said.

“The court sentenced five members of the extremist mob to the death penalty and also sentenced eight others to two years in prison. According to a Pakistani daily, the Dawn, the five defendants who were sentenced to death are: Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kambo, Irfan Shakoor, Muhammad Hanif, and Hafiz Ishtiaq (imam of the mosque). The eight men who received two years imprisonment are: Muhammad Hussain, Noorul Hasan, Muhammad Arsalan, Muhammad Haris, Muhammad Muneer, Muhammad Ramazan, Irfan, and Hafiz Shahid.”

“We hope that the convictions in Shahzad and Shama’s case would send a strong message to Muslim extremists and would deter future attacks on minorities. This case proves that all is not lost for Christians in Pakistan, but there is much work to do,” the Christian organization said.

The Daily Mail of London said the attack happened in “a hamlet called Chak 59,” which is in Punjab.

The couple had three older children, and the wife was pregnant when she was attacked and murdered.

The report said Riaz Anjum, a lawyer representing the couple’s family, said a total of 103 people had been charged in the case. But the court in the eastern city of Lahore had acquitted the rest.

Senior prosecutor Khurram Khan confirmed the death sentences, the Daily Mail said.

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”

 

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