On Friday, an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) sentenced three men to death for posting blasphemous social media posts. A fourth accused was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in the same case.
Four suspects were also given permanent search warrants by the ATC, absconding from the prosecution.
Rana Nouman Rafaqat and Abdul Waheed used false identities and disseminated blasphemous content on social media, according to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which investigated the case, while Nasir Ahmad posted blasphemous videos to a Youtube site. Islamabad ATC Judge Raja Jawad Abbas, who found the three guilty of having committed blasphemy, pronounced the verdict on Friday.
A fourth man, Professor Anwaar Ahmed, was sentenced, along with a fine of Rs100,000, to 10 years in jail. He was arrested during a lecture at the Islamabad Model College, where he was an Urdu tutor, for disseminating controversial blasphemous opinions.
In connection with the blasphemy case, all four convicts were originally arrested in 2017. According to the FIR, registered by the FIA on March 19, “There are several unidentified individuals/groups using social media that disseminate/spread blasphemous material through the internet, i.e. through social media.” Via suspected profiles/pages/handles/sites Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc……By the use of insulting words/remarks/graphic designs/images/sketches/visual depictions in reference to holy names, among many others wilfully defiled and outraged religious feelings.
On Sept 12, 2017, the ATC charged the four people after they pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. The ATC had already previously denied Professor Anwaar Ahmed’s bail request in the same case.
The prosecution produced 17 witnesses against the accused during the trial stretched over the last three years. The experts for the defence, meanwhile, were not accepted by the court unless they were the accused’s blood relatives.
This is the first case in Pakistan in which people have been prosecuted for posting blasphemous social media posts.
Human rights advocates state that in Pakistan, blasphemy laws are frequently misused to persecute minorities or also to resolve personal rivalries against Muslims. These charges may end up in lynchings or street vigilantism.
According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, up to 80 persons are estimated to be detained in the nation on such grounds, half of whom face life in jail or the death penalty.