Pak citizen Junaid Hafeez gets death sentence for insulting Prophet MD on social media

Last Modified Sunday, 22 December 2019 (11:18 IST)
Thirty-three-year-old was accused of insulting the on social media. He has been imprisoned without trial for six years, with much of that time spent in solitary confinement.
Pakistani university lecturer Junaid Hafeez, 33, was sentenced to death on Saturday on charges. He has been in prison, mostly in solitary confinement, while awaiting trial for six years.
"This is a vile and gross miscarriage of justice," Amnesty International's Rabia Mehmood wrote on Twitter.
 
Asad Jamal, Hafeez's lawyer, told Reuters news agency that he would appeal against the ruling in a higher court.
 
"There can't be a fair trial in blasphemy cases in Pakistan," Jamal said. "We have a spineless system. No one can stand up to a blasphemy charge."
 
Government lawyer Airaz Ali hailed the decision as a "victory of truthfulness and righteousness."
 
Hafeez's ordeal
 
Hafeez was a lecturer in English literature at Bahauddin Zakariya University in the city of Multan. Shortly after he began working there as a graduate student in 2011, he found himself targeted by an Islamist student group who took issue with what they considered Hafeez's "liberal" teaching.
 
The academic was arrested on March 13, 2013, having been accused of using a fake Facebook profile to insult the Prophet Muhammad in a closed group called "So-Called Liberals of Pakistan."
 
His father has said he was set up by the Islamists on campus, who wanted to get one of their own into an open position at the university.
 
"In 2013, the university advertised a post for a lecturer. The members of the Islamist Jamiat-e-Talaba organization told him to not apply for the job as they wanted their own people to get it," Hafeez-ul Naseer told DW.
 
"The group launched a malicious campaign against my son, distributing pamphlets and accusing him of blasphemy. They said he was an American agent," Naseer said.
 
"My son, who came back from the US to serve his country, was later arrested by police on blasphemy charges," he added.
 
Hafeez has been in solitary confinement, allegedly for his own protection from the general prison population, since 2014, when his first lawyer was murdered. His conditions have significantly deteriorated since 2018, according to reports
 
Blasphemy persecution
 
Pakistan's blasphemy laws have come under hefty criticism, as they have often been used to target minorities, activists, and to settle personal vendettas. Although no one has yet been executed under the laws, about 40 people are currently sitting on death row due to blasphemy convictions.