Pakistani Imam jailed for five years for hate speech

Pakistani prayer leader sentenced to five years in jail for inciting hate against Shiite Muslims

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A court in Pakistan has jailed an Imam or prayer leader for five years for inciting hate against a rival sect, officials said Wednesday.

Maulana Abubakar a prayer leader was arrested in February in Kasur district, Punjab, some 50 kilometres (31 miles) south of Lahore, for making a speech against the rival minority Shiite sect, a prosecutor told Agence France-Presse.

“The judge of an anti-terrorism court on Tuesday sentenced the Imam to serve five years in prison for [giving a] hate speech,” the prosecutor said on condition of anonymity.

“The Imam was found guilty of inciting hatred against Shiite [people] and raised slogans during his sermon that Shiites were infidels,” he said.

The official said that under Pakistan’s National Action Plan against terrorism, authorities have arrested many prayer leaders and courts have sent them to prison over hate speech charges.

The official said he could not give the number of convictions as data was still being compiled about the cases.

Shaikh Saeed Ahmed, a Lahore district prosecutor, confirmed the conviction and sentence awarded to the Imam.

Sectarian violence -- in particular by Sunni hardliners against Shiites, who make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan’s 200 million people -- has claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade.

In the latest bloodshed, 44 Shiites were massacred in the southern city Karachi last week, in the first attack claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group in the country.

The National Action Plan against terrorism, which involved the outlawing of militant groups, registration of seminaries and crackdown on hate speech, was announced in the wake of a Taliban massacre that killed 154 people, mostly schoolchildren, in December.

Pakistan also lifted a six-year moratorium on the death penalty and announced the establishment of military courts in the case of terrorist offences.

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