Bulletin # 52 (20 October, 2000)
PAKISTAN: DR. YOUNUS SHAIKH ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY, FACES DANGER OF DEATH PENALTY
Dr. Younus Shaikh, founder-President of the Pakistan based organization "Enlightenment", is accused of blasphemy under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code and faces death penalty, if found guilty.
According to a letter from Babu Gogineni, Executive Director of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in London, which reached us today, Dr. Shaikh was arrested on 4 October 2000. Yesterday, on 19 October 2000, he was presented before the court. He has no lawyer, since most of the lawyers in Pakistan donít dare to appear in blasphemy cases for fear of becoming target of fundamentalists themselves. In the court room, an aggressive group of about 20 clerics of the Islamic fundamentalist organization Majlis-I-Khatam-I-Nabuwat were present and tried to exert pressure. Dr. Shaikh faces death penalty, if found guilty. But even without a verdict, he is in permanent danger to be killed by the fanatic mob, as it has happened to many blasphemy accused earlier. Dr. Shaikh is cut off all his contacts. He lives alone and has no family members who could contact him while in custody and has not been allowed to talk to anybody. It seems that he did not suffer torture during the two weeks in police custody as many blasphemy accused. But his reading glasses were broken, leaving him in a state of helplessness.
Dr. Shaikh is a 45 years old medical doctor and teacher in a medical college in Islamabad. Through his organization "Enlightenment" he tries to promote Human Rights. The blasphemy accusation against him is based on his statement that the Prophet Mohammed did not become a Muslim till the age of 40 (i.e. until he received the first message from God) and the Prophetís parents were non-Muslims because they died before Islam existed. It seems that a fanatic student of Dr. Shaikh, Mr. Muhammad Asghar Khan, has mobilized the fundamentalists against him. One cleric Maulana Abdur Rafoof registered a case in Islamabadís Margalla police station. According to Pakistanís blasphemy law, police can arrest an accused without obtaining a warrant of a judicial magistrate. Dr. Shaikh was arrested and kept in custody till yesterdayís court date. Now he is held in judicial remand in Adyala Jail, Rawalpindi.
Dr. Shaikís life is in danger. Blasphemy in Pakistan is punishable with mandatory death penalty. Cases of acquittal are extremely rare, because the law demands only very vague evidences as base for a verdict. It is sufficient that at least two Muslim adult males witness that the accused is guilty of offending Islam or the Prophet. The courts normally give in to the pressure of the fundamentalists. Many accused are killed earlier in police custody or in the court room itself by fanatics.
What can we do to rescue Dr. Shaikh?
Please write letters to General Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan asking for his intervention to release Dr Shaikh. While writing, please remember not to provoke the military ruler, but to use persuasive language, keeping in mind his position.
The e-mail address of General Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan is:CE@pak.gov.pk
Please send a copy of your letter to:Save_Dr.Shaikh@rationalistinternational.net
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Honorary Associates: (alphabetically) Katsuaki Asai (Japan), Prof. Colin Blakemore (UK), Prof. Vern Bullough (USA), Dr Bill Cooke (New Zealand), Helena Cronin (UK), Prof. Richard Dawkins (UK), Joseph Edamaruku (India), Jim Herrick (UK), Christopher Hitchens (USA), Lavanam (India), Prof. Paul Kurtz (USA), Taslima Nasreen (Bangladesh), Steinar Nilsen (Norway), Prof. Jean-Claude Pecker (France), James Randi (USA), Dr G N Jyoti Shankar (meanwhile deceased) (USA), Prof. Harry Stopes-Roe (UK), Prof. Rob Tielman (The Netherlands), Jane Wynne Willson (UK), Prof. Lewis Wolpert (UK).
Sanal Edamaruku, President of Rationalist International, can be contacted atEdamaruku@rationalistinternational.net