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Lecturer Junaid Hafeez sentenced to death over blasphemy charge

A district court of Multan has announced the death sentence to university lecturer Junaid Hafeez on the blasphemy charges on Saturday.

The  33-year-old professor who was serving at Multan University, accused of committing blasphemy in 2013. He allegedly “liked” a blasphemous Facebook page.

The sentence was announced under Sections 295-A, 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Section 295-A: deals with “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs,”

Section 295-B: concerns the “Defiling, etc., of Holy Qur’an”.

Section 295-C: deals with the “use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet.”

Hafeez’s lawyer criticised the death sentence by saying that it was ‘most unfortunate’ and that his client will appeal against the court’s verdict.

The short order issued by the court stated that all sentences handed to Hafeez shall run consecutively. The accused will not be entitled to the benefit of Section 382-B (reduction of the period of sentence of imprisonment) of the Criminal Procedures Code “because in case of a blasphemer, this court has found no circumstances for taking a lenient view and it is also not permitted in Islam”.

Police said that the accused, Hafeez, was running and disseminating blasphemous content from a Facebook page. However, the page had remained active even after fourteen months of his arrest.

After legal experts refused to take up

Hafeez’s case was refused by various advocates before the Multan coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Rashid Rehman decided to represent the university lecturer.

Rehman had lodged a request with the Lahore High Court (LHC) to shift the case to Lahore from Multan. He had said that the environment of fear and intimidation in Multan had forced him to file the petition.

Later, LHC had turned down the petition by stating that there was “no material in support of the apprehension expressed on behalf of the petitioner” and asked Rehman to seek protection from the Multan police.

In 2014, Rehman was found shot to death by assailants and the murderers were never apprehended.

Rehman’s murder resulted in a wave of fear, putting off other lawyers from taking up his defence.

“An appeal in the high court will be filed soon against the verdict and hope that justice will be served without delay,” Hafeez’s family said.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan wrote in response to the verdict, “In five years, at least eight judges have heard Hafeez’s case, making a fair trial virtually impossible”.

It further stated, “Meanwhile, he [Hafeez] has undergone six years’ imprisonment in solitary confinement. Aasia Bibi, who was charged similarly, was acquitted after eight years’ incarceration. There are grave implications here for access to justice in such cases.

“HRCP reposes its faith in the higher judiciary and hopes that the verdict will be overturned in appeal, ” the statement said.

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