Mohammed Younus Shaikh was born in Pakistan and became a doctor in UK. As a Human Rights activist in Pakistan he attracted the attention of the Islamic fundamentalists. He took part in the Pakistan-India Forum for Peace and Democracy. On the evening of October 1st, 2000, an employee of the Pakistani Foreign Office, who was also one of Dr Shaikh’s students, complained to a cleric, saying that on 2nd October in a lecture between 12:00 noon and 12:40 pm, the doctor had made blasphemous remarks about the Prophet of Islam. The cleric filed a complaint with the police. Younus Shaikh was arrested on the evening of 4th October and charged with blasphemy. As a result, trial of Dr Shaikh, held throughout the summer of 2001, took place in a hostile courtroom packed with Islamic fundamentalists who warned the defence lawyers: “think of your families and children”. The final two sessions were held in-camera with gun-toting Pakistani Taliban waiting outside. It was finally established during the trial that the alleged events had never taken place. Nevertheless, on 18th August 2001, Dr Shaikh was found guilty and sentenced to death. Sadly, in Pakistan, such injustices are not uncommon in cases of alleged blasphemy. For the next two years, Dr Shaikh was held in solitary confinement in a death cell in the Central Gaol in Rawalpindi. On October 9th 2003, the judge finally decided that the original judgment was unsound but instead of acquitting Dr. Shaikh, remanded the case back to a lower court for retrial.
The retrial was held over three sessions in November 2003. Fortunately for Dr Shaikh the outcome this time was different. He was acquitted on 21st November by doing his own defence.
Commenting on the judgment, Dr Shaikh explained: “The judge accepted my legal arguments and found the charges against me to be baseless. My accusers, two Mullahs and some Islamist students, had lied.” He described his ordeal as: “Islamic terrorism through the abuse of law and of the state apparatus.”
Dr Shaikh was released from the gaol in great secrecy, was offered, but refused, a police bodyguard, and went into hiding for several weeks, meeting family and friends and even participating, incognito, in a debate on Human Rights.