Pakistan blasphemy lawyers receive death threats in courtroom
Judge did not intervene, lawyers claim
Lawyers representing a man accused of blasphemy in Pakistan’s populous Punjab province were subject to death threats inside the courtroom where they were giving evidence.
Two lawyers, Rashid Rahman and Allah Dad, said the judge overseeing the case of Junaid Hafeez, an academic who is accused of publishing an offensive drawing of the Prophet Mohammed on Facebook last year, did nothing to intervene.
“During arguments for acquittal of the accused, four persons addressed Rahman in the judge’s presence and said: ‘You will not come to court next time because you will not exist anymore’,” Dad told ucanews.com.
Hafeez, a visiting lecturer in the Department of English at the Bahauddin Zakariya University, denies the charge, and claims that he was falsely implicated by an Islamist party’s supporter who himself wanted the lectureship and was overlooked for the post in the final selection.
“We have been harassed continuously by extremists who gather outside the jail after every hearing and chant slogans against us and our client,” Dad said.
Last year, two lawyers defending the lecturer, Muddassir Sagheer and Haq Nawaz, abandoned the case after receiving death threats.
In a press statement, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) voiced serious concern and indignation over threats extended to the senior lawyer representing Hafeez.
“The difficulty that the accused has had in finding and retaining a lawyer is well known. HRCP views that as a systematic denial of legal representation to the accused,” the group said.
“If this charade continues for much longer HRCP will have no qualms in concluding that it has been decided that the accused would not be allowed legal representation and there is no need to bother with a trial any more. HRCP demands that the three persons who threatened the lawyer in the case are proceeded against under the law without delay and effective measures are taken to ensure the defence lawyer’s security.”
In Pakistan, mere allegations of blasphemy are enough to trigger mob violence and riots.
Three Christians, two of them a married couple, have been sentenced to death for blasphemy during the last two weeks.
Last month, a Muslim mob torched a Hindu community center and damaged a temple following rumors that a Hindu man had burned pages of the Qu'ran in Pakistan’s Sindh province.
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