Could Mark Zuckerberg Face A Pakistan Death Sentence?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg could be in hot water over a “Draw Muhammad” contest hosted on the site last month. He is being investigated by Pakistani authorities under a section of the penal code that makes blasphemy against Muhammad punishable by death.

The contest, called “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” was sparked by the censorship of a South Park episode which depicted the Muslim figure and resulted in death threats against the show’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. It was designed as a protest against the limitation of free speech and called for users to create a drawing representing Muhammad. What began as a joke in the United States, however, was not found funny in Pakistan where depictions of Muhammad are strictly prohibited. Pakistan banned Facebook for all of its 45 million users until the site agreed to block the contest page in that country. Once the page was blocked the ban was lifted.

A lawyer in Pakistan, Muhammad Azhar Siddique filed an application for a First Information Report claiming that the owners of Facebook had committed a “heinous and serious” crime under Section 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code. That section reads:

“use of derogatory remark etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet, whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Hold Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable for fine.”

To be clear, a First Information Report simply launches a criminal investigation, and charges have not yet been formally filed. Currently under investigation by the Deputy Attorney General are not only Zuckerberg but also his fellow co-founders Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes, and the German woman who initiated the “Draw Muhammed” contest. Pakistan’s United Nations representative has also asked to escalate the issue in the UN General Assembly.