Several UN human rights monitors on Friday called on Pakistan’s superior courts to overturn the recent death sentence against an academic in a blasphemy trial.
They called the verdict a “travesty of justice”.
Junaid Hafeez, a 33-year-old lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University, was arrested in 2013 for allegedly uploading anti-Islamic material on Facebook.
He has been kept in solitary confinement since 2014.
The UN experts criticized that he was sentenced even though Pakistan’s Supreme Court had previously suspended a death sentence in the prominent blasphemy case of the Christian woman Asia Bibi.
“In light of this ruling, the guilty verdict against Mr Hafeez is a travesty of justice, and we condemn the death sentence imposed on him,” said the experts, who monitor freedom of religion, arbitrary execution, arbitrary detention, and torture around the world.
They added that the decision in Bibi’s case should have set a precedent “to dismiss any blasphemy case that has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt”.
The experts noted that a lawyer representing Hafeez in 2014 was murdered.
“There seems to be a climate of fear among members of the judiciary handling this case, which may explain why at least seven judges were transferred during this lengthy trial,” they said.
Junaid Hafeez is eligible to appeal the decision with Pakistan’s high court, the Supreme Court and, ultimately, the president.
The UN monitors expressed serious concern that blasphemy charges are still being brought against people who are exercising their rights to freedom of thought, religion, and expression.