Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer of English Literature at Bahauddin Zakariya University, respected writer and scholar, has been jailed for the past three years and charged with blasphemy. The charge carries the possibility of a death sentence. During the trial his attorney was threatened by the prosecutor in open court; and was actually murdered. Hafeez’ new lawyer has requested the trial be moved to a safer location but the court denied the request.
CCS has requested that Hafeez be immediately and unconditionally released and the charges dismissed.
June 1, 2016
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Prime Minister House, Pakistan Secretariat
Fax: 011 92519220404
Dear Prime Minister:
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world. We write today to express our grave concern for Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer in the English Literature Department at Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU), who has been jailed for over three years in Multan, Punjab, Pakistan, on charges of violating Section 295-C of Pakistan’s Penal Code for “blasphemy.”
Mr. Hafeez is a widely respected writer and scholar who studied in the United States under a Fulbright scholarship. The evidence for this charge of “blasphemy,” which carries a possible death sentence, is unclear to us, and laws banning “blasphemy” are a violation of the basic human right to freedom of belief. This right is protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a fundamental human rights treaty which Pakistan ratified in 2010.
We are profoundly concerned for the safety of Junaid Hafeez, not only because he faces a potential death sentence, but also because his previous attorney, Rashid Rehman, a lawyer with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), was murdered after being threatened with murder by the prosecutors, in open court in front of the presiding judge while handling Mr. Hafeez’ case. According to the HRCP, the Prosecutor told Mr. Rehman in court: “You will not come to court next time because you will not exist anymore.” No investigation into this threat was ever carried out and no protection for Mr. Rehman was provided. Following the murder of attorney Rehman, Junaid Hafeez’s current lawyer submitted a petition to move the trial to a safer location, but this was rejected, and Mr. Hafeez remains at grave risk in prison in Multan.
Scholars and scientists must be allowed to operate in an atmosphere where freedom of speech and belief are respected. We, therefore, urge you to have Junaid Hafeez immediately and unconditionally released and the charges against him dropped. We, further, urge you have him moved to a safer area of the country while his legal status is pending.
Thank you for your consideration of this most serious and urgent matter and we look forward to receiving your response.
Sincerely,Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Punjab Mian Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif
Chief Minister’s Office 7
Club Road, GOR I
Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani
Embassy of Pakistan
3517 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: 1 202 243 6500
Junaid Hafeez And Pakistan’s Laws of Darkness (huffingtonpost.com)
- Pakistan Must Release Asia Bibi To Demonstrate Protection For Its Religious Minorities – Analysis (eurasiareview.com)