A university professor has been sentenced to death by a court in Pakistan after being found guilty of blaspheming Islam on Facebook.
Junaid Hafeez, a 33-year-old lecturer at the Bahauddin Zakariya University in the central Pakistani city of Multan, was accused of posting derogatory comments about Muhammad on social media in 2013. Prosecutors also charged Hafeez with “liking” a blasphemous Facebook page.
On Saturday, a court in Multan found Hafeez guilty and sentenced him to death after a lengthy trial.
Since 2014, Hafeez has been held in solitary confinement due to security concerns, after his lawyer was shot dead for agreeing to take on the case. His current lawyer is reportedly speaking on the condition of anonymity.
According to Pakistani news website, The News International, Hafeez was found guilty of “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” (i.e. the equivalent of “hate speech” crimes in the West).
Hafeez was also found guilty of “defiling” the Qur’an and using “derogatory remarks” in reference to Muhammad.
The court also reportedly refused a softer sentence saying, “because in case of blasphemy, this court has found no circumstances for taking a lenient view and it is also not permitted in Islam.”
BBC News reported that following the verdict, prosecution lawyers distributed sweets to their colleagues, who chanted “Allahu akbar” and “death to blasphemers.”