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Finally a modicum of justice as five men are convicted of murder of Pakistani Christian slave couple

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Suleman, Sonia and Poonam [children of Shama and Shahzad] receive Childrens' Bible from Leighton Medley and Mehwish Bhatti of the BPCA at a revival meeting in Kasur on 19th November 2016.

The brutal murder of Shahzad and Shama Bibi in Pakistan shocked the world making international headlines. These two illiterate Christians had been accused of disposing of a Quran in their regular rubbish.  Desecration of the Quran is an act that in Pakistan is deemed a blasphemy and foments instant frenzied attacks on the innocent people accused. For this couple it meant being burned alive by a Muslim mob and a whole community had to flee the attack of incensed Muslims. Now two years later finally some small justice has been achieved after 5 men have been given Pakistan's severest penalty of death for their involvement in the murder of the couple.

On 4th November 2014 a Pakistani mob of at least 3,000 beat to near-death a Christian and his pregnant wife for her alleged ‘blasphemy’, then threw them both into a large furnace within a brick kiln where they both worked as bonded laborers.  Their eldest son Suleman only 6 at the time described on television interviews post-attack, how he saw his mother and father twitching in the flames of the fire that slowly consumed them.  His chilling words hat should never have been aired give the impression the couple were still alive as they burned. After the incident police officers investigating the incident confirmed there was no evidence of a crime.  

Riaz Anjum, the lawyer representing the couple’s family, told the BPCA that a total of 103 people had been charged in the case. However the anti-terrorism court in the eastern city of Lahore had acquitted 90, including the owner of the brick kiln Mr Gujjar.

Mr Gujjar is believed to have locked the couple in a store room on his land after they asked to leave his kiln slave camp, to flee a potential mob attack. Apparently the couple had learnt how mosque were inciting hatred towards them after a false allegation of blasphemy had been laid against the.  To prevent his slaves escaping and defaulting on their debt to him Mr Gujjar loceke them up preventing them escaping o safety.

Today the Lahore based Anti-Terrorism Court has convicted five men to death by hanging and imposed fines of 2 Lakh (Lakh = 100,000) rupees on each of them (which will have to be paid by their families).  8 other men involved in the brutal incident have been given two year sentences.

Riaz Anjum said: “The five people awarded the death sentence were involved in dragging, beating and burning the couple while the other eight played a supportive role according to the judgement,” Senior prosecutor Khurram Khan confirmed the ruling.

Mukhtar Masih, Father of Shama Masih, said: "We were unable today to attend the court today due to the risk to our safety. I am disappointed with today's result as my eldest daughter Yasmeen, who saw the whole incident witnessed at least 15 men involved in the brutal violence against my daughter Shama and her husband Shahzad.  Only five of those men have been convicted with a death sentence yet the others poured kerosene over Shama and Shahzad and were also violent. Two years imprisonment for those who were involved in a lesser capacity for a crime that lead to two deaths seems too lenient."

He added:

"My life and the lives of Suleman, Sonia and Poonam [Children of Shama and Shazad] have been devastated. We are now starting to receive death threats from all the families of those accused and fear for our lives. This small justice could still end up costing us even more."

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:

"These convictions are a watershed moment for the Pakistani Christians.  It is rare for perpetrators of violence against Christians to receive a conviction, for the sentencing to be so strong in this court case sends out a strong message that violence will be met with the weight of the law. The perceived impunity for mob attacks on Christians has been countered and now hopefully will reduce such crime."

He added:

"The family of Shama and Shahzad now need a time for solace and healing. The ongoing case and the constant death threats on the family have had their toll. The couples children  often question why they and their parents were hated so much. The government of Pakistan must ensure that they work with us and other groups to ensure the protection of this beleaguered family it should be of paramount importance.  Quite frankly the family have suffered enough.

Thanks to donations, BPCA has been able to not only repaint the family's home but also was able to buy the children comfortable beds, bedside cupboards, and school supplies. Our daily nanny provides them with a regular maternal influence but now have to relocate them due to increased threat to their lives.

"We are committed to Shama and Shahzad's children and we will continue to do all that we can to provide for them but we need your help to do it," Wilson Chowdhry said, adding that BPCA now accepts online donations. "Please give what you can afford, no matter how small, and join with us in showing them the daily love and care that they need."

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