Pakistani Court Issues Death Sentence For 'Blasphemous' Facebook Post

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had last month extended the law's strict ambit to social media, saying in an Urdu-language statement: "Uploading and sharing of blasphemous content on the internet is a punishable offence under the law".

Even unproven allegations of blasphemy in the devout Muslim country can be risky with mob lynchings and violence breaking out over any criticism of Mohammed. Raza was arrested previous year for allegedly posted derogatory content about Sunni Muslim religious leaders and wives of the Prophet Mohammed on Facebook.

The country has never executed anyone convicted of blasphemy, but the mere accusation is enough to ignite mob violence or lynching in the deeply conservative country.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive topic in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where insulting the Prophet Mohammad is a capital crime for which dozens are sitting on death row. Raza was arrested in Bahawalpur, 600 km south of Islamabad, and was sentenced to death on Saturday by a local court. The court eventually handed death sentence to the accused.

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. The material obtained from the phone led to Raza's conviction, he added.

As per Dawn report, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) had arrested the accused previous year from Bahawalpur and a case was registered against him at CTD Multan police station.

Relations between Shia and majority Sunni communities have flared up at times in Pakistan, with some extremist Sunni groups such as Lashkhar-e-Janghvi trying to exploit sectarian tensions.

Earlier this year, a student in Mardan was attacked and killed by a stick-wielding mob who accused him of blasphemy.

  • Leroy Wright