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 AFP .
“ 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 . ”
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Hafeez ’ s lawyer was killed in 2014 after receiving death threats during a hearing.
About 40 people convicted of blasphemy are on death row in Pakistan , according to a 2018 estimate by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The acquittal last October of Asia Bibi , a Christian woman who had spent more than eight years on death row for blasphemy , provoked violent protests across Pakistan , leaving large swathes of the country paralysed .
Bibi now lives in Canada with her family .
While many cases involve Muslims accusing Muslims, rights activists have warned that religious minorities – particularly Christians – are often caught in the crossfire , with blasphemy charges used to settle personal scores .
(AFP via Punch)