World First: Death Penalty for Facebook Posts

30-year-old man in Pakistan is convicted of insulting Mohammed online
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2017 7:14 AM CDT
World First: Death Penalty for Facebook Posts
The Facebook logo.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Pakistan just put a man on death row because of his Facebook posts. In what is believed to be the first death penalty sentence anywhere over social media content, a court convicted the 30-year-old of insulting the prophet Mohammed and his wives, reports Reuters. The details about Taimoor Raza's posts aren't known, but the Guardian reports that he got into an online debate about Islam last year with a man who was actually an undercover counter-terrorism agent. "An anti-terrorism court of Bahawalpur has awarded him the death sentence," says a public prosecutor. Raza, who belongs to the nation's Shia minority, will be able to appeal his verdict to the nation's Supreme Court.

Blasphemy is a volatile issue in Pakistan, with Dawn noting that a mob killed a college student earlier this year who was accused of making blasphemous statements on social media. Other men are on death row for blasphemy, but Raza is the first there because of online statements. Human rights defenders say it's a risky precedent, one that opens up the possibility of people being framed. "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," says an attorney with Human Rights Watch. (Read more blasphemy stories.)

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