6 Years In Solitary Confinement: Blasphemy Accused Junaid Hafeez Awaits Justice
Prosecution in the case of blasphemy accused lecturer Junaid Hafeez is using delaying tactics to buy time and swing the case in their favour, Naya Daur has learnt.
Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan, was booked under blasphemy charges for alleged comments on Facebook and arrested in March 2013. He has been in solitary confinement since his arrest in 2013, and extreme solitary confinement for the last one year.
In the last hearing of the case on Wednesday, the court was supposed to record Hafeez’s statement under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), but the prosecution filed three new applications.
One of the applications under sec. 540 Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) calls on the court to grant permission for sending a laptop and a cell phone for forensic examination which the police claim they took in possession when the accused was arrested in March 2013. Surprisingly, the gadgets were never sent for forensic examination by police in these six and a half years since the same were allegedly recovered from the accused.
The accused’s lawyer, who did not wish to be named, fears that the laptop and mobile phone may have been tampered with, since the police had kept them in its possession for the last six years without applying legally-required procedure to keep them safe.
In fact, as the defense counsel informs, three prosecution witnesses during cross examination confirmed that the laptop was used by them to recover allegedly blasphemous content.
Manipulated Evidence Against Hafeez May Be Brought On Record
He said that if permission [to send the devices for forensic examination] is granted, manipulated evidence against Junaid is likely to be brought on record, adding that even if no tampering took place and no new evidence against Junaid is brought on record, forensic analysis at the government’s agency would likely delay the trial by several months.
“Legally, there’s no justification to introduce new evidence in the form of forensic examination after all the prosecution witnesses have been cross examined and all the documentary evidence has been brought on the court record,” the defense counsel told Naya Daur.
In another application, the prosecutor also requested the court to remove from court file some documents which the defence counsel has exhibited during cross examination.
Further, the prosecution has filed another application under section 540 CrPC read with s. 94 CrPC, for summoning an expert of Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) who has previously prepared a report on the digital evidence gathered in June 2013 by the police in two CDs.
The CDs were sent for examination in June 2013 and a report was received by the prosecution after two years – in January 2015. Hafeez’s lawyer fears that similar delay is likely to happen again.
‘No Substantial Evidence Found Against Hafeez’
He says prosecution failed to come up with any substantial evidence against Junaid Hafeez in all these years, and the new applications are aimed at further delaying the verdict which could have arrived by the end of this month.
He further said that any prosecution service would like to get maximum number of convictions, which explains why they want Hafeez convicted by hook or by crook. “But it has to be achieved in an ethical manner,” he told Naya Daur.
Further, he said that seeking forensic examination of two electronic gadgets is tantamount to seeking permission to generate and create new evidence. “This request will cause an indefinite delay to an already six and a half year old criminal trial in which the accused’s constitutional right to personal liberty has been violated.”
The defense counsel is of the opinion that the prosecution having kept Hafeez incarcerated for over six years, finds it difficult to face a situation in which he might be acquitted.
Transfer Of Judge Would Delay The Verdict:
8 judges hearing the case have been transferred in six and half years since March 2013, which is one of the important reasons why the case has been lingering for years.
The defense counsel says that the current trial judge has heard the case for 9 months, and understands its difficult aspects.
“A new judge [as a result of transfer] at this stage or in the coming weeks/months will lead to further delay as no new judge can understand the case in a short span of time and he may, therefore, also be put under pressure and fear”, he says.
Meanwhile, Prosecutor Zia-ur-Rehman, while talking to Naya Daur, denied that the prosecution was trying to delay the verdict. “The prosecution is not responsible for the delay, but it is the defense that took time in cross-examination, hence the delay,” he said.
The prosecutor, however, did not answer as to why the devices recovered from the accused were not sent for forensic examination in six years.