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Defense lawyer in Pakistan blasphemy case receives death threat

Says men posing as IS gunmen threatened him for representing a professor accused under the controversial law

ucanews.com reporter, Karachi

ucanews.com reporter, Karachi

Published: December 05, 2014 08:41 AM GMT

Updated: December 04, 2014 08:41 PM GMT

Defense lawyer in Pakistan blasphemy case receives death threat

A Pakistani lawyer says he has been threatened by gunmen posing as members of the Islamic State movement for defending a man accused of blasphemy.

“Two gunmen riding a motorcycle opened fire outside my residence at 9:30pm [on Wednesday] and sped away. They returned again after midnight, knocked at my door and dropped a letter,” Shahbaz Gurmani told ucanews.com on Friday.

Gurmani is defense counsel for Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer in the English department at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Karachi.

Hafeez was arrested in March 2013 after being accused by the student wing of a hardline Islamist party of posting derogatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad and Allah on his Facebook page.

Hafeez denies the charge, claiming he was falsely accused by a supporter of the party who wanted his job but was overlooked for the position.

“In the letter, supposedly sent by Daish, the Arabic acronym for IS, I have been told to withdraw from the Junaid Hafeez case or face serious consequences,” Gurmani said.

“Haven’t you learned any lesson from what we did to Rashid Rehman Khan? You will be beheaded if you do not quit this case,” he said, quoting the letter.

Rashid Rehman Khan, a lawyer and coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was shot dead inside his office in May this year for defending Hafeez.

Khan had taken up the case after two other defense lawyers, Muddassir Sagheer and Haq Nawaz, withdrew following death threats.

Gurmani said he would not be intimidated by threats and would continue to fight Hafeez’s case.

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Rights campaigners say Pakistan’s blasphemy law is misused to target minorities, stoke religious hatred and settle personal scores.

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