Junaid Hafeez Arrested for Blasphemy in Pakistan

Junaid Hafeez Arrested for Blasphemy in Pakistan

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In Pakistan, Bahauddin Zakariya University lecturer Junaid Hafeez, 33, was arrested in March 2013 for allegedly posting derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed on social media. On Saturday handed down the death sentence to a university lecturer who had been charged in 2013 of committing blasphemy under a law that critics say is often used to target minorities and liberal activists.

Hafeez’s sentence was announced in central city of Multan, where he was a university professor at the time of his arrest, and his counsel Asad Jamal slammed the decision as “most unfortunate”. “We will appeal against this verdict,” Jamal told AFP.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in conservative Muslim-majority Pakistan, where laws against it carry a potential death sentence. Even unproven allegations have led to mob lynchings and vigilante murders.

Hafeez has maintained that he was framed by students activists of a religious party because they had earlier objected to his appointment to the university.

Hafeez was moved to solitary confinement in 2014 after he was attacked by fellow inmates in Central Jail Multan. His first lawyer, Rashid Rehman, was brutally murdered the same year in his chamber at the District Court in Multan after he agreed to take up Hafeez’s case.

His second lawyer withdrew from the case and a third lawyer was threatened at the hearing.

Traditionally, lower courts in Pakistan award the death sentence to persons charged with blasphemy owing to the threats that judges receive from religious parties. These cases are then overturned at the level of the High Court. The sole exception was the case of Aasiya Bibi whose appeal was rejected by the Lahore High Court in 2014 and relief was provided to her by the Pakistan Supreme Court in 2018 on grounds of insufficient evidence against her.
                                     
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