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Defence lawyer in blasphemy case shot dead in Pakistan

08 May, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: Armed gunmen shot dead a lawyer defending a university lecturer accused of blasphemy in Multan on Wednesday, officials said.

"Armed gunmen stormed the chamber of Rashid Rehman and started indiscriminate firing on Wednesday evening, injuring Rehman and two of his associates present there" senior police official Zulfiqar Ali told AFP.

He said the three were rushed to Nishtar Hospital where doctors pronounced Rehman dead upon arrival while the two wounded were receiving treatment. Rehman was representing Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University, accused of making derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) in March last year.

Hafeez was known for his liberal views at the university and the case of blasphemy was registered after pressure from right-wing student groups, said a student, who wished not to be named.

An official at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that for a year no lawyer was prepared to take up the case over fears of attacks from extremist religious groups. But Rehman, who was also a rights activist and coordinator of the HRCP, decided to defend Hafeez.

During the first hearing in March this year, which took place inside a prison for security reasons, Rehman received threats from the lawyers representing the complainant.

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