Islamabad: An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has for the first time sentenced a man to death for allegedly sharing blasphemous content about Sunni religious leaders and the Prophet Mohammed’s wives on Facebook.
This is being regarded as the harshest among cyber-crime related sentences handed down so far in the country.
Judge Shabbir Ahmad Awan announced the verdict over the weekend in Bahawalpur, Punjab Province, finding 30-year old Shiite Taimoor Raza guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammed.
The accused, who hails from Okara, had allegedly posted derogatory content about prominent Sunni religious figures and the Holy Prophet Muhammad and his wives on Facebook.
A case was registered against him on behalf of the State at CTD Multan police station under Section 295-C of the penal code, related to “derogatory acts against prophet Muhammad” and Sections 9 and 11w of the Anti-Terrorism Act (which deal with whipping up sectarian hatred) , The Dawn has reported.
Pakistan has never executed anyone convicted of blasphemy. Under the country’s strict blasphemy laws, anyone accused of insulting Islam and its key religious figures risks being sentenced to death.
Pakistan has intensified crack down on “blasphemous” content on social media, as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has urged swift punishment for those involved in “a nefarious conspiracy” against the country’s Muslim majority.
Raza was one among 15 people arrested by the counter-terrorism department in 2016 , accused of blasphemy, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
Raza’s brother, Waseem Abbas, said the family was “poor but literate”, and belonged to Pakistan’s minority Shia Muslim community. “My brother indulged in a sectarian debate on Facebook with a person, who we later come to know, was a [counter-terrorism department] official with the name of Muhammad Usman,” he said.
Authorities have asked Twitter and Facebook to help identify users sharing blasphemous material.