Two members of a Pakistani mob that incinerated a Christian couple and their unborn child, because they thought the couple had disrespected a Quran, have been acquitted.
However, the death sentences for three others involved were upheld.
The news comes from the American Center for Law and Justice, which has been monitoring the case since the horrific attack in 2014.
The couple, Shahzad and Shama, the mother of three who was pregnant at the time with her fourth child, was targeted by an infuriated mob because the Muslims were under the mistaken impression they had burned pages of a Quran.
WND reported in 2016 a court sentenced to death five extremists for the murders.
The Muslims abducted the Christians, beat them and threw them alive into a fiery brick kiln in which they were incinerated.
Shahzad, his wife and parents worked at the kiln belonging to Yousaf Gujjar for more than a decade. At the time, Shama, while cleaning her house, found some papers that belonged to her father-in-law, who had died a week before.
The ACLU report explained: “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.”
The Pakistani daily The Dawn reported the five originally sentenced to death are Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kambo, Irfan Shakoor, Muhammad Hanif and Hafiz Ishtiaq, the imam of the mosque.
Eight others involved in the attack in Punjab were sentenced to prison.
ACLJ said that, originally, 103 people were charged with murder, but some 90 were acquitted.
On May 16, the Lahore High Court acquitted two of the five men who had been sentenced to hang and confirmed the death sentence of the other three, ACLJ said.
“Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan headed a two-judge bench hearing appeals filed by Muhammad Hanif and Hafiz Ishtiaq against the ATC’s 2016 verdict. The appeals of three other convicts, Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kambo, Irfan Shakoor, were dismissed … by the court, which upheld their death sentences,” the report said.
ACLJ said Christians “continue to face not only violent persecution from angry mobs but also the tacit persecution of the Pakistani judicial system allowing those who would kill Christians to go unpunished.”
“We will continue working to protect Christians from violence and persecution in Pakistan.”
ACLJ said its sources on the attack said the Muslim mob placed an iron sheet on the couple in the kiln to prevent them from moving.
The mob chanted to Allah while members were killing the Christians, the report said.