A Pakistani Christian couple have been sentenced to death for blasphemy after allegedly sending text messages insulting Islam.

Shafaqat Emmanuel, a crippled 38-year-old man, and his wife Shagufta Kausar, 42, were found guilty of sending a text message insulting the Prophet Muhammed to the imam of their local mosque.

They were sentenced to death on April 4, just days after Sawan Masih was given the same sentence.

The hearing was held in an overcrowded prison in Toba Tek Singh where the couple were being held since their arrest on July 21 last year.

The complainants, identified as Muhmmad Hussain and Anwar Mansoor Goraya, were present in court for the hearing and pressured the judges to impose a death sentence.

This came despite the defence claiming that evidence showed the text messages the couples are said to have sent could not have come from their mobile phones.

They also said that the husband and wife were uneducated and would not have been able to compose the messages they are alleged to have sent. The couple come from the town of Gojra in Punjab, where in 2009 Muslim mob set fire to scores of houses in the village after Christian man was accused of desecrating the Quran.

However, no one has ever been punished for the attack on the town and the country’s blasphemy laws continue to be controversial, increasingly being used to settle personal scores and persecute religious minorities.

Pakistan’s government has come under international pressure to overturn blasphemy legislation, but officials have been reluctant amid growing pressure from Muslim groups.

Blasphemy laws in pakistan