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Pakistani Jailed for 13 Years for Facebook Post

FILE - A sign with Facebook's "Like" logo is posted at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

A Pakistani man has received a 13-year prison sentence for allegedly posting religiously offensive material on his Facebook page, according to lawyers in the case.

Rizwan Haider, 25, was accused of publishing a post referring to the Prophet Muhammad.

An anti-terrorism court Thursday convicted Haider of three charges, including promoting sectarian hatred, Aleem Chatta, deputy public prosecutor for Punjab province, said in an interview with VOA's Urdu service.

Chatta said the case was registered against Haider, a Shi'ite Muslim, in January for posting what the prosecutor called material that was objectionable to Sunni Muslims.

The defendant was also fined 250,000 rupees ($2,500), Chatta said, adding that Haider denied the charges and had the right to appeal.

Haider's lawyer dismissed the accusations. "He only 'liked' it and did not post it on the page," Shameem Zaidi said.

Pakistan tightened its hate-crime laws as part of a campaign to combat extremism after a Taliban attack at a school in Peshawar in December 2014 killed 153 people, mostly children.

Authorities have arrested and sentenced several religious clerics, mostly from hard-line Sunni sects, for hate speech in recent months.

Haider's case, however, is one of the few in which a Shi'ite Muslim has been jailed for such a crime.

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court jailed another Shi'ite man for 13 years in November 2015 after he also posted what authorities deemed sectarian hate speech on Facebook. Rights activists condemned the ruling as "extremely concerning."

Pakistan has been gripped by sectarian violence since the 1980s, with thousands killed in clashes triggered by religious tensions.

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