After two years, justice was finally served for a Pakistani Christian couple burned to death as 13 Muslim extremists were convicted and sentenced for the crime.
The Pakistan anti-terrorism court sentenced five men -- Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kambo, Irfan Shakoor, Muhammad Hanif, and religious leader Hafiz Ishtiaq -- to death and imposed penalties of Rs200,000. The other eight were sentenced to two years in prison for their involvement in the crime.
Shahzad Masih and his wife Shama, who worked in a brick kiln, were brutally murdered by a Muslim mob in 2014 after news circulated that Shama allegedly burned the Quran. The outcry of the extremists against the couple started when a neighbor saw Shama burning some pages of paper that belonged to her deceased father-in-law.
According to the American Center for Law and Justice, Shama was illiterate and had no idea as to what the papers meant. However, a neighbor saw her burning the papers and informed the owner of the brick kiln that they worked for.
Shahzad and Shama were called to report to the owner's office. When they got there, they were locked inside and beaten.
News of what Shama had allegedly done spread throughout the community and in the neighboring villages when a local vendor heard about what happened and informed an Imam, who called for Muslims to attack the couple.
The police and other witnesses confirmed that a religious leader incited the people to violence against the couple by announcing the alleged burning of the Quran in the mosques and telling people to gather at the brick kiln.
A crowd of more than 1,000 people surged into the place where Shahzad and Shama were locked in, tearing through the roof and dragging them out of the room. They beat the couple intensely before throwing them into the furnace to die.
The angry mob also prevented five policemen from rescuing the Christian couple.
"Both Shama and Shahzad were reduced to ashes in no time," the First Information Report said.
Shama was pregnant when she was attacked and killed. A Muslim resident named Bilqees said Shama tried to explain that she didn't know she had burned pages of the Quran.
"She was screaming that she was unaware of what the papers were about, but no one listened to her," Bilqees said.
The ACLJ said the conviction of the 13 men who attacked Shahzad and Shama is a "good development in a country where religious minorities are persecuted on a daily basis."
"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," the ACLJ said in a statement. "This case proves that all is not lost for Christians in Pakistan, but there is much work to do."