Taimoor Raza, a citizen of Pakistan, could be the first person put to death under his country's new laws about social media usage. According to CNN, Raza has been found guilty of "using derogatory remarks ... in respect of the Holy Prophet" on Facebook.
"An anti-terrorism court of Bahawalpur has awarded him the death sentence," said Shafiq Qureshi, public prosecutor in Bahawalpur, according to Al Jazeera: "It is the first-ever death sentence in a case that involves social media."
Activist organizations are speaking out against the ruling. "No one one should be hauled before an anti-terrorism court or any other court solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief online," said Amnesty International's Pakistan campaigner, Nadia Rahman.
About the law, Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said "nothing can be greater than our religion to us ... If social media platforms do not cooperate with us despite all our efforts, then we will take the strictest of measures against such platforms in the country."
In May, all citizens of Pakistan were sent a text message informing them of their duty to report blasphemous social media postings to police. The crackdown on social media is a new part of Pakistan's zero tolerance policy on insulting the Prophet Muhammad, a crime punishable by death. Amnesty International has criticized the law as "open to abuse," as most accused are presumed guilty. No one has yet been executed under this law.
Raza was arrrested in April after he was reported for listening to "blasphemous" content on his phone. He has also been accused of of regularly sharing "blasphemous pictures and status updates."
"Two individuals ... instigated Taimoor on Facebook Chat to get him to say things against the Prophet Muhammad. Taimoor never said anything blasphemous," countered Raza's lawyer in a statement. He also described the ruling as a "miscarriage of justice" and pledged to appeal the decision.
A Facebook spokesperson said that they are "deeply saddened and concerned" by the sentence. "We do not provide any government with direct access to people's data."
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