Gunmen kill Pakistan lawyer defending professor in blasphemy case
Gunmen posing as clients shot dead a prominent human rights lawyer defending a professor accused of blasphemy, officials said Thursday, underscoring the danger facing those trying to put an end to religious intolerance in majority-Muslim Pakistan.
Wednesday’s killing of Rashid Rehman in the southern city Multan of was the first time a lawyer has been killed for taking on a blasphemy case, police said.
Rehman had been representing Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer in English accused by hardline student groups of making blasphemous remarks against the Prophet Mohammed in March last year.
Hafeez had been in prison without being able to find a lawyer until Rehman agreed to represent him in February.
Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Pakistan. The accused are often lynched or languish for years in jail without trial because lawyers are too afraid to defend them. Rights groups say the laws are increasingly used to seize money or property.
Judges have previously been attacked in Pakistan for acquitting blasphemy defendants and two politicians who discussed reforming the law were shot dead.