In a first in the country, a Pakistani man has been sentenced to death for making “blasphemous” remarks on Facebook, according to prosecutors’ comments reported on by The Washington Post.
Although the exact words used are unclear, 30-year-old Taimoor Raza was accused of making negative remarks about religious figures, including the prophet Muhammad. The Guardian reports that the comments came up in a conversation about Islam with a man who, unbeknownst to Raza, was a government agent. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan told the publication that Raza was one of 15 arrested by the government counterterrorism department last year on accusations of blasphemy.
In April, The Washington Post reported on the case of a Saudi man who was sentenced to death for comments about the prophet Muhammad made on Twitter.
Raza’s sentence represents an escalation in what’s already a major crackdown on social media and internet use in Pakistan. According to a Human Rights Watch report released last month, the government sent a text message to millions recently asking them to report blasphemy on social media. The country’s interior minister soon after ordered government officials to take action against “all those dishonoring the Pakistan Army through social media.”
“The Pakistani government’s crackdown on online expression will put dissenting voices at a greater risk in an already toxic environment,” Asia director at Human Rights Watch Brad Adams said at the time.