Taimoor Raza gets first ever death penalty for blasphemy on social media.
A Pakistani court has sentenced to death a man who allegedly committed blasphemy on Facebook, a prosecutor said, in the first such case involving social media.
The conviction of Taimoor Raza, 30, came after a high-profile crackdown against blasphemy on social media by the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive topic in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where insulting the Prophet Muhammad is a capital crime for which dozens are sitting on death row. Even mere accusations are enough to spark mass uproar and mob justice.
Shafiq Qureshi, the public prosecutor in Bahawalpur, south of provincial capital Lahore, said Raza was convicted for allegedly making derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad, his wives and companions.
“An anti-terrorism court of Bahawalpur has awarded him the death sentence,” Qureshi told Reuters.” It is the first ever death sentence in a case that involves social media.”
It is rare for a counter-terrorism court to hear blasphemy cases but Raza’s trial fell under this category because his charge sheet included counter-terrorism offences linked to hate speech.
Qureshi said Raza was arrested after playing blasphemous and hate speech material on his phone at a bus stop in Bahawalpur, where a counter-terrorism officer arrested him and confiscated his phone. The material obtained from the phone led to Raza’s conviction, he added.
“The trial was conducted in Bahawapur jail in tight security,” Qureshi said
Qureshi added that Raza belongs to the minority Shia community and in court, he was accused of spreading “hate speech” against the Deobani which adheres to a strict school of Sunni Islam.
Though Raza will be able to appeal to High Court and later in the Supreme Court.