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Pakistani lawyers strike over slaying of colleague in blasphemy case

Slain lawyer was defending a university lecturer charged with insulting the Prophet under Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws,

Relatives mourn over the body of Rashid Rehman, who was killed by unidentified gunmen at his residence in Multan. Reuters / May 8, 2014
Relatives mourn over the body of Rashid Rehman, who was killed by unidentified gunmen at his residence in Multan. Reuters / May 8, 2014

MULTAN, Pakistan // Lawyers in Pakistan went on strike on Thursday to mourn a colleague shot dead for defending a client accused of blasphemy.

Gunmen stormed the office of Rashid Rehman, a university lecturer, in the central city of Multan on Wednesday evening and started firing indiscriminately, killing him and two others in the room.

It is the latest high-profile killing linked to Pakistan’s strict laws against defaming Islam, which rights campaigners say are often used to settle personal disputes.

“We are observing a strike and no lawyer will appear in any court today to mourn and protest the killing of our colleague,” Sher Zaman Qureshi, president of the District Bar Association Multan.

“We demand that the killers of Rashid Rehman should be arrested immediately.”

He added that Rehman had told the association he had received death threats and they had asked the police to provide security, but the request was declined.

“Rashid Rehman had informed us that he was being threatened by various people to stop defending the blasphemy case, otherwise he will be killed,” Qureshi said.

Rehman was representing Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University who is accused of making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed in March last year.

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

* Agence France-Presse