Protect Mr. Choudry in Pakistan

On 8th of February 2010, MEPs Heidi Hautala and Jean Lambert sent the following letter to the Ambassador of Pakistan.[:]

Dear Ambassador Jilani,

I am writing to draw your attention to the urgent case of prominent 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. [:]

Mr Choudhry is the Chairman of Legal Aid for the Destitute and Settlement (LADS) in Lahore, an NGO committed to providing legal aid to marginalised people unable to afford legal assistance themselves. Since it was founded in 2001, LADS has represented hundreds of people pro bono, and has more recently established rehabilitation services for prisoners’ families and the destitute.

 Mr Choudhry defends many difficult and controversial cases, including those relating to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws (contained in section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code), forcible conversion and rape. His work, carried out in dangerous circumstances, has earned him national and international acclaim and numerous human rights awards. In 2003 he was awarded the Bishop John Joseph Award by the Pakistan Minorities Front for his outstanding work in defending minority rights at considerable personal risk. More recently, he was nominated for the 2009 Human Rights Award by the EU Bar Council.

However, his defence of blasphemy cases has attracted particular opposition from extremist religious elements, and he has been labelled as an “Enemy of Islam”.

Threats against Mr 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, Mr 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”. Mr Choudhry then received a phone call the next morning, in which the caller said that his office and home would be blown up.

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 to please provide the following minimum protections to Mr Chowdry as soon as possible:

 – Provision of a secure means of transportation, and a police escort when attending trials;

– Provision of police guards for his office and home;

– Provision of an impartial, Pakistani-national observer for the remainder of this case.

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

 Yours Sincerely,

 Jean Lambert MEP Heidi Hautala MEP