Taimoor Raza was found guilty of insulting the prophet Muhammad during an argument on social media with a counter-terrorism official
An anti-terrorism court sentenced Taimoor to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Facebook, the latest step in an intensified crackdown on dissent on social media.
In an unprecedented legal sentencing, 30-year-old Taimoor Raza was found guilty at a court in Bahawalpur of committing blasphemy online.
Mr Raza was arrested last year after a man he engaged in an online debate with about Islam revealed himself to be a counter-terrorism agent, according to defence lawyer Rana Fida Hussain
Criticising the Islamic prophet in Pakistan is punishable by death under the country’s law – and the mere suspicion of blasphemy can lead to death by mob violence.
While Mr Raza is the first to be sentenced to death for blasphemy on social media, a number of other Pakistani citizens are on death row for making similar comments in public.
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.
Local authorities have even asked Twitter and Facebook to help them identify users who share blasphemous material.
Human rights defenders have given stark warnings against the country’s restriction of speech, and argued it could allow people to carry out personal vendettas.