Professor sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan
21 Dec 2019
Police patrol outside the central jail, as the court delivered the verdict on a blasphemy case, in Multan on Saturday. AFP
A Pakistani court on Saturday sentenced a university professor to death for blasphemy under a law that critics say is often used to target minorities and liberal activists.
Junaid Hafeez, 33, was arrested in March 2013 for allegedly posting derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed on social media.
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in conservative Muslim-majority Pakistan, where laws against it carry a potential death sentence. Even unproven allegations have led to mob lynchings and vigilante murders.
Hafeez's sentence was announced in central city of Multan, where he was a university professor at the time of his arrest, and his counsel Asad Jamal slammed the decision as "most unfortunate".
"We will appeal against this verdict," Jamal told the media.
"Junaid Hafeez's death sentence is a gross miscarriage of justice and the verdict... is extremely disappointing and surprising," Amnesty International's Rabia Mehmood said.
"The government must immediately release him and drop all charges against him," she added. "The authorities must also guarantee his safety and that of his family and legal representatives."