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Pakistani Medical Doctor Younis Sheikh Released from Prison

January 23, 2004

Following a second trial, Pakistani medical doctor Younis Sheikh was acquitted of blasphemy charges and released from prison on November 21, 2003. Given that a number of former prisoners acquitted of blasphemy charges in Pakistan have been targeted by Muslim extremists when released—and in some cases killed—Dr. Sheikh accepted an asylum offer from the Swiss government. He arrived safely in Switzerland on Monday, January 19, 2004. We did not post this article on the CHR’s website until now at the request of his friends, who did not want his release to be publicized until he was safely out of Pakistan.

Dr. Sheikh—a physiology professor at Islamabad’s Capital Homeopathic College—was arrested in October 2000 and charged with blasphemy for saying that the Prophet Muhammed was a non-Muslim before the age of 40 in answer to students’ questions during a physiology lecture. He was convicted in August 2001 and sentenced to death following an unfair trial. At an appeal hearing before the High Court in 2003, the judge did not confirm Dr. Sheikh’s death sentence and sent his case to a lower court for retrial. His retrial began on November 1, 2003, before the Islamabad Session Court. Instead of retaining a lawyer, Dr. Sheikh chose to represent himself. The day after the third hearing, on November 20, Judge Chaudry Asad Raza announced his decision to acquit Dr. Sheikh and ordered his immediate release from prison.

For more detailed information on Dr. Sheikh's case, please see his case summary.