The UN human rights experts condemned the death sentence of Junaid Hafeez, a Pakistani university teacher, charged with blasphemy, calling the ruling “a travesty of justice”.
Junaid Hafeez, former lecturer of Bahauddin Zakariya University, who was accused of uploading blasphemous material on social media and using blasphemous language during lectures, was sentenced to death by districts and sessions court in Multan.
“The Supreme Court ruling in the Asia Bibi case should have set a precedent for lower courts to dismiss any blasphemy case that has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt,” the UN experts said.
Moreover, they raised concerns in an urgent appeal to the Government over the legal merits of the case, according to the press release “In the light of this ruling, the guilty verdict against Mr. Hafeez is a travesty of justice, and we condemn the death sentence imposed on him”, spelled out the experts.
“We urge Pakistan’s superior courts to promptly hear his appeal, overturn the death sentence and acquit him.” International law permits the death penalty only in exceptional circumstances, and requires incontrovertible evidence of intentional murder, the experts noted.
“The death sentence imposed on Mr. Hafeez has no basis in either law or evidence, and therefore contravenes international law”, they continued, adding that “carrying out the sentence would amount to an arbitrary killing,” they said. They expressed their serious concern that blasphemy charges are still being brought against people “legitimately exercising their rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and expression”.
Hafeez was arrested on 13 March 2013 and charged for allegedly making blasphemous remarks during lectures and on his Facebook account, the press release pointed out. He has been in solitary confinement since his trial began in 2014, seriously affecting his mental and physical health. The death sentence was imposed by a district and sessions court in Multan on 21 December 2019.
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