An anti-terrorism court in central Pakistan on Saturday sentenced a man, aged 30, to death for posting blasphemous content on social media.
The judge conducted the judicial proceedings in the high-security prison in the city of Bahawalpur, prosecutor Mohammad Shafiq Qureshi told VOA.
The prosecutor explained that the court found Taimoor Raza guilty of using Facebook and WhatsApp to “disseminate” or “upload” hate material, including “offensive pictures and comments” against Prophet Mohammad and his companions. Raza has the right to appeal the verdict.
Qureshi said the Facebook account Raza was running had more than 3,500 friends, or followers.
The defense counsel was not immediately available for comments on the allegations against his client.
Counterterrorism forces arrested Raza about a year ago and police records showed the man had confessed he was working for outlawed Sipah-e-Muhammad, which is a Shi’ite militant group.
The organization has been locked in a deadly rivalry with militants from Pakistan’s majority Sunni Muslim population. The years of sectarian conflict has killed thousands of people around the country.
Pakistani authorities have been cracking down on social media activists suspected of disseminating blasphemous content through their accounts.
Dozens of activists have been detained or questioned in recent weeks in Pakistan, prompting harsh criticism from rights defenders.
Opposition parties have alleged the crackdown in the name of religion is mainly aimed at silencing political dissent and deterring critics who are calling for accountability of the country’s powerful military institution, along with its alleged intervention in political matters.
Pakistani officials deny the charges.
Insulting Prophet Mohammad can carry a death penalty in Pakistan.
Earlier this week, the country’s Supreme Court exonerated a man sentenced to life imprisonment by a lower court on allegations of desecrating the Holy book of Quran.
The ruling noted that the lower courts “appeared to have not conducted a fair trial of the case” before awarding the punishment.