Man in Pakistan sentenced to death for blasphemous Facebook comments

There’s disturbing news from Pakistan, where a man has been handed the death sentence for allegedly making blasphemous comments on Facebook.

The Guardian reports that Taimoor Raza was founded guilty of insulting the prophet Muhammad by a court this week. His charge relates to comments made during a debate about Islam with another user on the social network, who subsequently turned out to be an undercover counter-terrorism agent.

This is the stiffest punishment that Pakistan has handed down for online comments to date. The ruling is part of a wider crackdown on blasphemous material on the internet. Pakistani authorities have pushed Google, Facebook and others to identify users posting such comments online, and they even asked their own citizens to be vigilant of posts made by others.

“The casual manner in which death sentences are handed in blasphemy cases coupled with the lack of orientation of Pakistani courts with technology makes this a very dangerous situation,” Human Rights Watch representative Saroop Ijaz told The Guardian in a statement.

In years past, Pakistan has issued temporary blocks on Facebook, and then Twitter. A three-year ban on YouTube was lifted last year.