The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is calling on Pakistani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Junaid Hafeez, a 33-year-old lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan.
After being targeted by an Islamist group for his “liberal” teachings, Hafeez was charged with blasphemy over a series of Facebook postings. He was arrested in March 2013, and has been held in solitary confinement since June 2014. In December 2019, he was sentenced to death by a Pakistani court.
“Professor Hafeez’s case represents a serious violation of internationally-recognized human rights and academic freedom,” said CAUT executive director David Robinson. “Pakistani authorities must immediately release him from custody and drop all charges.”
Robinson notes that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been widely criticized for being overly broad and repressive, and have been used to target religious minorities and activists.
According to rights groups, more than 1,500 blasphemy cases were reported in Pakistan between 1987 and 2017. During this time, more than 75 people accused of blasphemy were killed extra-judicially.
“The government of Pakistan must repeal the blasphemy laws,” adds Robinson.