UN Experts Urge Pakistan To Overturn Blasphemy Accused Junaid Hafeez’s Death Sentence
United Nations human rights experts have urged Pakistan’s high court on Friday to clear academic Junaid Hafeez of blasphemy charges and overturn his death sentence.
According to a report by Reuters, UN human rights experts have described Hafeez’s sentence by a lower court last week as a ‘travesty of justice’ and said that senior judges should acquit the lecturer on appeal.
The experts, who include UN investigators on freedom of religion, unlawful killings and arbitrary detention, have said, “We urge Pakistan’s superior courts to promptly hear his appeal, overturn the death sentence and acquit him.”
They further said that international law permitted the death penalty only in exceptional circumstances and required irrefutable evidence of intentional murder.
They also argued that the death sentence imposed on Hafeez had no basis in either law or evidence, and therefore was in violation of international law.
The UN experts further stated that carrying out the sentence would amount to an arbitrary killing. They also expressed concern over the fact that that blasphemy charges were still being misused.
Last week, blasphemy accused Junaid Hafeez, who had been in prison for more than 6 years, had been sentenced to death by a local court in Multan.
Junaid, a Fulbright scholar, was accused of blasphemy on social media by a religious group at Bahauddin Zakriya University in Multan, where he taught.
Hafeez’s lawyer had told Naya Daur in September that the prosecution was trying to swing the case in their favor and get him convicted by hook or by crook. The prosecution was also allegedly using delaying tactics so as to avoid the verdict. They were also reports of the judge being pressured by a group of lawyers who wanted Hafeez to be convicted.
Following the verdict, Junaid Hafeez’s lawyers, while terming the verdict unfortunate, had said that they would be appealing the verdict.