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Freedom for Taimoor Raza - Sentenced to death for Blasphemy.

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They were detained under the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, passed last year, which has been criticised for curbing human rights and giving overreaching powers to law enforcement agencies.

An FIA official told the Guardian that his agency had orders from the interior ministry to interrogate, and seize laptops and phones, without warrant. “We are authorised to detain anyone, just on suspicion,” the agent said.

Quratulain Zaman, human rights defender with Bytes for All Pakistan, said the harassment of social media users was unprecedented, and a sign of social media’s growing ability to shape public opinion, including against the military.

While Raza is the first person sentenced to death for blasphemy on social media, several others are on death row for alleged blasphemy in public. Among them is Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted in 2010 after a row with two Muslim women in a village in Punjab. With a long-awaited final appeal adjourned, Bibi is still in solitary confinement.

In Pakistan, blasphemy is so contentious that the mere mention of unfounded allegations can ignite mass uproar. In April, a mob at a north-western university took 23-year-old Mashal Khan from his dormitory and lynched him, angered by accusations that Khan had offended Islam.

Last week, a joint investigation concluded the baseless allegations had been a conspiracy by some students and university staff.

In another incident, in May, a 10-year-old boy was killed when a mob tried to storm a police station in Balochistan in anger at a man held on blasphemy charges.

Four people were sentenced to death for blasphemy last year, according to the HRCP.

In a 2016 report (pdf) by the commission, Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi rejected most blasphemy allegations. “A majority of blasphemy cases were based on false accusations, stemming from property disputes or other personal or family vendettas rather than genuine instances of blasphemy,” he said.



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