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IDHAE World  Globebservatory for Defence Rights and attacks against lawyers

 

On 2 February 2010, Parvez Aslam Choudhry received a threatening phone call in which the caller said that his office and home would be blown up. It is believed that this threat is related to his work on the case of Qamar David, a Christian who is currently on trial for charges of blasphemy. The case is now reaching a critical point, with “final arguments” scheduled to be heard on 9 February 2010.

On 1 February 2010, Parvez Aslam Choudhry was the subject of intimidation by a mob of people that attended the latest hearing in the case of Qamar David. The mob declared that they would see Parvez Aslam Choudhry just before the hearing on 9 February 2010 and “perform their religious duty to kill blasphemers and supporters”.

 

 

Biography :  Parvez Aslam Choudhry, is the chairman of a Lahore-based legal group : the NGO "Legal Aid for Destitute and Settlement" (LADS), which provides legal assistance to impoverished detainees and works against discriminatory laws in Pakistan, Parvez Aslam Choudhry is a Member High Court Bar Association and Member Lahore Bar Association in Pakistan, and former president Christian Lawyers Association Pakistan (CLAP).

 

Parvez Aslam Choudhry has defended many blasphemy accused in the High Court Pakistan, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and has been attacked on several occasions. He has been in danger before because of his work against the blasphemy laws. In 2003 he was assaulted while defending a blasphemy case. He filed a complaint with the police, but says they took no action. He received frequent death threats while defending blasphemy case against one Younis Masih, a Christian who was allegedly charged with flinging a burning matchstick on November 12, 2005 in the Quran Mahal, a Islamic school situated in the Sangla Hill stadium which caught fire and is at risk of being sentenced to death.

 

Since the trial of Younis Masih began, he has been threatened outside the court and has also received anonymous telephone death threats, warning him that his life will be in danger if he continues to represent Younis Masih. Members of his family have also received threats during the trial of Younis Masih.

 

Younis Masih is alleged to have made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed at a religious service held at a house near his own on 9 September 2005, in the Chunngi Amar Sadu area of Lahore. He denies this, and a local newspaper quoted his wife as saying that he was attacked after he went to the house at around midnight and asked the people inside not to sing so loudly, as he was in mourning for his nephew, who had recently died. According to the local press, the next day local Muslims looted a number of Christian homes, and witnesses said that the police did not intervene.

 

The Muslim cleric who had led the service filed a complaint against Younis Masih accusing him of offences under Section 295C of the Pakistan penal code, which deals with blasphemy. According to his lawyer he is not facing any other charges. He was arrested on 11 September and taken to Kot Lakhpat jail, in Lahore, where he is still held. A first bail petition was rejected by the session's court in Lahore in November and a second petition is now pending in the Lahore High Court.

 

Masih always denied involvement in the desecration of the Quran, regarded by Muslims as a holy book of Islam.

 

Parvez Aslam Choudhry has received numerous anonymous telephone calls, and has been physically assaulted outside the court. On 26 January 2006on his way to the jail where he hoped to visit Younis Masih, a van drove into his car causing him minor injuries. Some of the men in the van got out and began to attack him as he sat in the car, but got back in the van and drove off when friends of Parvez Choudhry approached.


On 11 May 2006, unknown assailants deliberately rammed their car into Parvez Aslam Choudhry’s car, which then was pushed off the road and fell forty feet. One passenger, lawyer Rana Javed Rafiq, died instantly. Parvez Aslam Choudhry and his colleague Ijaz Victor were hospitalized for a number of days after the incident. On two occasions in February and July 2006, Parvez Aslam Choudhry was threatened at gun point by Muslim men who warned that his life was in danger if he continued to represent blasphemy cases.
 

On 6 April 2008, before the hearing in a blasphemy case in the court, Parvez Aslam Choudhry was attacked by a large mob when he arrived at court for the bail hearing. The miror of the car was broken and car was damged also and the mob threatened to kill him. On 8 April 2008, he received an anonymous telephone call threatening both him and his family. He was reportedly told he was to be killed because he was a Christian lawyer defending a Christian person accused of blasphemy. Similar threats were also made against him inside the court by witnesses.

 

On 25 April 2008, the car in which Parvez Aslam Choudhry, Aslam Masih, Ijaz Victor and Mubarak Masih were travelling was hit from behind and from the right-hand side by a red van. The back windscreen was broken, the bumper was damaged and there were minor injuries to all passengers. On 12 november 2008 after accepting the appeal of medi Hassann Parvez Aslam Choudhry received three life threats calls from unknown callers. Later on 13 November 2008 and then 14 November 2008, callers continously said that Parvez Aslam Choudhry was a blasphemr and now he ans his family will be kill.

On 11 March 2009, police officers arrived at the house of Parvez Aslam Choudhry, in Youhanabad in Lahore. The police informed her that Section 144 had been imposed in several cities of Punjab, effective for 3 days from 11 March, banning any form of protest march or gathering of people. On 12 March 2009 lawyers from across Pakistan began a demonstration – "the lawyers’ long march"- which is due to culminate in a sit-in outside the Parliament on 16 March. Parvez Aslam Choudhry has chosen not to return to his home while these restrictions are in place for fear that he will be detained.

 

In 2003, Parvez Aslam Choudhry has been awarded the Bishop John Joseph Award by Pakistan Minorities Front for his outstanding work in defending the rights of minorities at considerable personal risk.


Background Information :

 

Christians comprise less than 3 percent of Pakistan's over 162-million mainly Muslim people, experts say. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Pakistan).Lawyers defending people accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are facing growing threats to their lives. Death threats and physical assault have become a regular occurrence for some lawyers, despite the widespread misuse of the blasphemy laws. Those accused of blasphemy also face similar threats. A human rights organization has urged Pakistani government to ensure protection of lawyers defending people accused of blasphemy in the country. It has also called for measures to ensure that the blasphemy accused are treated as innocent until proven guilty.

The blasphemy laws of Pakistan, while purporting to protect Islam and the religious sensitivities of the Muslim majority, are vaguely formulated and arbitrarily enforced by the police and judiciary in a way which amounts to harassment and persecution of religious minorities. Many of those accused or suspected of blasphemy have been assaulted or tortured. People detained on blasphemy charges in prisons including Kot Lakhpat, where Younis Masih is held, have been killed by fellow detainees or prison wardens. Others suspected of blasphemy, but not under arrest, have been unlawfully killed without police taking any action to protect them.

Copyright IDHAE

 

Please take action on behalf of Parvez Aslam Choudhry.

Copy the enclosed IDHAE letter and send it to the address provided.

 

ADRESSES: 

President Asif Ali Zardari,

Office of the President,

Aiwan-e-Sadr,

Islamabad,

 Pakistan.

 Fax: +92 51 921 1018

Email: psecyp@isb.paknet.com.pk

 

LETTRE: 

 

[your name here]

 

Your Excellency,

 

I am writing to draw your attention to the urgent case of my colleague Pakistani human rights lawyer, Parvez Aslam Choudhry, who is facing death threats in the run-up to the final phases of a blasphemy trial, involving Mr. Qamar David.

 

My colleague Parvez Aslam Choudhry is a Member High Court Bar Association and Member Lahore Bar Association in Pakistan, and former president Christian Lawyers Association Pakistan (CLAP). Parvez Aslam Choudhry, is the chairman of a Lahore-based legal group: the NGO "Legal Aid for Destitute and Settlement" (LADS), which provides legal assistance to impoverished detainees and works against discriminatory laws in Pakistan. In that purpose Parvez Aslam Choudhry has defended many blasphemy accused in the High Court Pakistan, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and has been attacked on several occasions. He has been in danger before because of his work against the blasphemy laws. In 2009, he was nominated for the 2009,  LudovicTrarieux Human Rights Prize awarded by the IDHAE together with main bars and Law societies human rights groups in Europe such as Paris, Brussels, Berlin,  Rome, Luxemburg e.a.

 

Since 2003, he has been threatened outside the court and has also received anonymous telephone death threats, warning him that his life will be in danger. 

Mr Parvez Aslam Choudhry has recently received death threats as a result of his human rights activities.

 

Recently threats against lawyer Choudhry have increased in intensity since he took up the case of Qamar David, a Christian on trial for charges of blasphemy.

At the latest hearing in this long case, on 1 February 2010, lawyer Choudhry experienced intimidation from a mob present in the courtroom, followed by the statement that they would see him just before the next hearing on the 9th February and “perform their religious duty to kill blasphemer and supporters”. On 2 February 2010, Parvez Aslam Choudhry received a threatening phone call in which the caller said that his office and home would be blown up.

 

These threats are the most recent in a series of threats against Parvez Aslam Choudhry. In 2003 he was assaulted while defending a blasphemy case. He filed a complaint with the police, but says they took no action. In January 2006, a van drove into his car causing him minor injuries. Some of the men in the van got out and began to attack him as he sat in the car, but got back in the van and drove off when friends of Parvez Choudhry approached.

 

On 11 May 2006, unknown assailants deliberately rammed their car into Parvez Aslam Choudhry’s car, which then was pushed off the road and fell forty feet. One passenger, lawyer Rana Javed Rafiq, died instantly. Parvez Aslam Choudhry was safe but ha was hospitalized for a number of days after the incident.

Since then, Parvez Aslam Choudhry’s car was assaulted on several times.  He was threatened at gun point by Muslim men who warned that his life was in danger if he continued to represent blasphemy cases. In the same times from 2006 to 2009, anonymous phone calls continuously said that Parvez Aslam Choudhry was a blasphemer and now he and his family will be kill callers.  

 

The EU has acted on behalf of Mr. Choudhry in the past, in line with EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. As the case of Omar David reaches a critical stage, with “final arguments” scheduled to be heard on 9 February 2010, and taking into account the afore mentioned threats and attempts on his life, we now urge of the Pakistani authorities I believe that the intimidation and death threats against Parvez Aslam Choudhry are directly related to his work in defence of human rights, in particular the rights of minorities at risk. I fears for the physical and psychological security of Parvez Aslam Choudhry and.

I urge the authorities in Pakistan to please provide as soon as possible the following minimum protections to Parvez Aslam Choudhry  :

1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the death threats and intimidation against Parvez Aslam Choudhry, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

2. Provide a secure means of transportation, and a police escort when Pares Aslam Choudhry is attending trials;

2.More generally provide police guards for his office and his family and particularly his wife Neelam Shazia so as to guarantee their physical and psychological integrity in the final days of the trial of Qamar David

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Pakistan are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

 

I look forward to hearing from you with regards to this crucial matter.


 Yours Sincerely,

 

[Your signature ]

 

 

 

 

PLEASE ACT NOW.

THANK YOU.

 

 

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Copyright © 2009 IDHAE - European Bar Human Rights Institute.

 

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