A man has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for posting blasphemous comments about the Prophet Muhammad on Facebook.
Taimoor Raza is the first person in Pakistan to receive the death penalty in a case relating to social media, public prosecutor Shafiq Qureshi told Reuters.
Raza was reportedly arrested by a counter-terrorism officer at a bus stop when he was playing blasphemous material on his phone, which was then confiscated and led to his Facebook posts being discovered.
Facebook has repeatedly emphasized its role as a platform for free speech, but the laws governing free speech and human rights in countries around the world can vary dramatically. Human rights organisation Amnesty International published a report in December 2016 detailing the ways in which Pakistan’s blasphemy laws detail abuse.
“Convicting and sentencing someone to death for allegedly posting blasphemous material online is a violation of international human rights law and sets a dangerous precedent,” said Amnesty International’s Pakistan campaigner, Nadia Rahman in a statement. “The authorities are using vague and broad laws to criminalize freedom of expression. He and all others accused of ‘blasphemy’ must be released immediately.”
Raza will be able to appeal his decision at the High Court, and then if necessary at Pakistan’s Supreme Court.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.