Taimoor Raza was sentenced to death Saturday for blasphemy by a Pakistan antiterrorism court after he was found guilty of insulting the prophet Muhammad on social media.
The sentence of the 30-year-old, who was arrested at a bus station in April 2016, is the first time a person has been sentenced to death for blasphemy on social media in Pakistan, The New York Times reported.
Prosecutors accused Raza of having blasphemous content on his cell phone, showing it to people at the bus station, and spreading it on Facebook and WhatsApp.
Muhammad Shafique Qureshi said Raza committed blasphemy in 3,000 posts and confessed to being a member of a banned Shiite group, Sipah-e-Muhammad, the Times reported.
Raza was one of 15 people arrested by Pakistan's counter-terrorism department last year on charges of blasphemy, The Guardian reported.
The country has been cracking down on blasphemy, which can lead to mob vigilante justice. Such was the case with 23-year-old Mashal Khan, who was pulled from his dormitory and lynched for alleged blasphemy, the Guardian noted. Critics say blasphemy allegations have been used to carry out personal vendettas.
“The casual manner in which death sentences are handed in blasphemy cases coupled with the lack of orientation of Pakistani courts with technology makes this a very dangerous situation,” said Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, according to The Guardian. “Such sentences will embolden those who want to wrongly frame people.”
Blasphemy in public has led to death sentences in the country, but Raza's is the first such ruling for blasphemy on social media.
Pakistan's residents are predominantly Sunni Muslims, whose rivalry with Shiite Muslims dates to the seventh century, The Associated Press noted.
Twitter users expressed outrage at the sentence.
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