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Pakistan: Campaign to free Junaid Hafeez, accused of blasphemy

Tuesday 27 May 2014, by siawi3

Source: http://www.centreforsecularspace.org/free-junaid-hafeez/

FREE JUNAID HAFEEZ!

Junaid Hafeez, a 27 year old Pakistani graduate student, was arrested in Multan on March 13, 2012 on false charges that he posted blasphemous remarks on Facebook. Though these charges have never been substantiated, he has been held in jail for over a year and faces the death penalty. His lawyer Rashid Rehman, head of the Pakistani Human Rights Commission in Multan, was warned by Islamists to drop the case on pain of death. He refused and was assassinated on May 7, 2014.

WE DEMAND:
JUSTICE FOR RASHID REHMAN!
FREEDOM FOR JUNAID HAFEEZ!
AN END TO RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION AND MOB RULE!

Scroll down to the Urgent Action for the full story and what you can do to help!

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URGENT ACTION: Junaid Hafeez

Summary

Junaid Hafeez, a 27 year old Pakistani graduate student, was arrested in Multan on March 13, 2012 on false charges that he posted blasphemous remarks on Facebook. Though these charges have never been substantiated, he has been held in jail for over a year and faces the death penalty. His lawyer Rashid Rehman, head of the Pakistani Human Rights Commission in Multan, was warned by Islamists to drop the case on pain of death. He refused and was assassinated on May 7, 2014.

Narrative

Junaid Hafeez was arrested as part of a campaign to Islamize the English department at Bahauddin Zakariya University, the main university in Multan, Pakistan’s third largest city. Such blasphemy campaigns are a well known practice of Jamaat e Islaami, a political party of so-called “moderate Islamists†with a violent history and student wing. The first target of the campaign was Shirin Zubair, head of the English Department, who taught critical thinking skills and gender studies. The Tehrik-tahafaz-e-Namoos-e-risalat (TTNR), an off-shoot of Jamaat e Islami, told the university administration they were monitoring the teaching faculty and if no action were taken against liberal teaching, they would punish offenders themselves. The university’s Vice Chancellor forced Zubair to go on leave and removed her as head of the department.

Junaid Hafeez was a graduate student of Zubair’s and an adjunct teacher; a brilliant student, he was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to Jackson State University in Missisippi in 2009-2010. Because he was popular and well qualified academically, when a new teaching position was listed in Feb., 2013, he was the clear frontrunner. Jamaat e Islami wanted the job for one of their people. On March 13, another student, Rana Akbar Tabish, an active member of Islami jamea Talba (the student wing of Jamaat), circulated a leaflet saying Junaid Hafeez was a blasphemer and must be hanged immediately. 150-200 Islamist students, carrying sticks and chanting slogans, then staged a demonstration and called a strike in the English Department. Without investigating the charges, the Vice Chancellor immediately cancelled Junaid’s MPhil admission, terminated his teaching contract and housing allottment, and barred him from campus.

Junaid fled but was soon arrested. He was put in Sahiwal Jail, some distance from the city of Multan, and charged with blasphemy under penal code 295-C. Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Pakistan.

Junaid had great difficulty finding a lawyer. His first lawyer resigned in June under death threats; the Multan Bar Association then forbade any of its members from taking the case and he was without representation until September, when Rashid Rehman, the Multan coordinator of the indepdendent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, agreed to take the case. As soon as this happened, another fundamentalist group, Tehreek Dawaat ahle Hadith (TDAH) began to circulate a pamphlet calling for Rehman’s death.

As is usual in Pakistan, the case took a long time to come to trial. Every 15 or 20 days, Junaid was taken from Saliwal Jail to Multan—a trip of several hours—under heavy guard. He would be met at the court by a crowd of Islamists who would come into the court, call for his death, and create a commotion. The hearing would last a few minutes; then the case would be postponed and he would be taken back to jail.

Fearing that Junaid might be killed going to or from court, Rashid Rehman asked for the trial to be held inside the jail. Junaid was then transferred to Multan Central Jail and the trial began on April 3, 2014. The prosecution submitted 1200 pages of evidence, including everything from the inbox of Juaid’s computer, reports of conferences, a 45 page CV, and an email version of a book called Progressive Muslims sent to him for review, which arrived four days after he was arrested.

Blasphemy cases in Pakistan are difficult to document because it is impossible for a believer to repeat something he considers blasphemous without sinning. The prosecution’s evidence

included 13 contradictory statements from witnesses against him and/or Shirin Abair.

Whether they are true or false, all these statements are counted by the prosecution as “evidence.†They contain accusations against both Shirin Abair and Junaid, like “she says such things in the lectures that I cannot put it in words,†and “He says such unholy things in the classes that we cannot bring it to our tongues!†The only documentation of any of the charges against Junaid seems to be that he was accused of “liking†a post on a Facebook page called Mullah Munafiq. (https://www.facebook.com/mulla.munafiq.1); the post is still there with three comments but it has not been translated from Urdu. Junaid was also accused of being the author of this site, which is ridiculous since the site has continued throughout the year he has been in jail with no computer access.

At a hearing on April 11, Rehman filed a motion to dismiss all the charges as fabricated. The judge denied the motion. Rehman then filed a motion to move Junaid’s trial to a higher court.

The prosecution had 14 lawyers present. Outside the jail and in the presence of a witness, two men threatened Rehman with death unless he dropped the case. Then two prosecution lawyers and an unidentified third party approached Rehman and his associate attorney Allah Dad as they stood before the judge, and said that, if he did not drop the case, “You will not come to court next time because you will not exist any more.†Rehman called the judge’s attention to the threat but he did nothing. The HCRP issued a press release calling for police protection of Rehman and proseccution of those who had threatened him, and Rehman lodged a complaint with the police but nothing happened. In an interview with BBC-Urdu April 18, Rehman said that defending someone accused of blasphemy was like walking into the jaws of death.

At 8:45 PM on May 7, while he was conferring in the HCRP office with a colleague, Nadeem Pervaiz, and a client, Muhammad Afzal, two armed men burst in and shot them all. Rehman was killed instantly; the others are still hospitalized.

JUSTICE FOR RASHID REHMAN AND FREEDOM FOR JUNAID HAFEEZ!

WE DEMAND THAT

The lawyers who threatened Rashid Rehman be disbarred, the judge who failed to act be disciplined, and that senior police be held responsible for not protecting him.
His killers be brought to justice
The case against Junaid Hafeez be dismissed
His accusers be brought to trial for incitement to murder
Future blasphemy cases be tried only in the high court
Junaid’s new lawyer be given police protection and the case files, which were confiscated by the police, be returned to him intact
WE CALL ON YOU TO

Send email messages of support to the HRCP at Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Aiwan-i-Jamhoor, 107-Tipu Block,New Garden Town, Lahore-54600, Pakistan. E-mail: hrcp hrcp-web.org; URL: www.hrcp-web.org.
Sign the petition.
Form local and campus defense committees to agitate online about the case and build pressure for it to be dismissed.
Write letters asking for the case to be dismissed to Mamnoon Hussain, President of Pakistan http://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/index.php?lang=en&opc=8
Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister info pmo.gov.pk

and on Twitter: Shahbaz Sharif, Governor of Punjab Shehbaz Sharif@CMShehbaz

and the PM’s daughter Maryam Nawaz@MaryamNSharif.

Contact the Pakistani ambassador in your country and ask if you can visit him to discuss the murder of Rashid Rehman and the persecution of Junaid Hafeez.
Consult the IDARE Facebook page for further campaigning suggestions.
For more, check out our facebook page.

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