ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested 17 people in connection with a blasphemy case, the majority of whom were released after an initial investigation while three were shortlisted for a detailed investigation.

On Friday, the agency produced three suspects before an anti-terrorism court and obtained a seven-day physical remand to determine whether they shared objectionable or blasphemous content on social media. The FIA did not disclose the identity of the suspects, fearing threats to their families.

Sources close to the investigation also said an initial inquiry revealed that the bloggers who went missing at the end of last year and were later released by unknown abductors were not involved in sharing blasphemous content.

The FIA on March 19 registered an FIR which stated: “There are several unknown people/groups disseminating/spreading blasphemous material through internet using social media i.e. Facebook, Twitter, websites, etc. through alleged profiles/pages/handles/sites etc… and several others wilfully defiled and outraged religious feelings, belief by using derogatory words/remarks/graphic designs/images/sketches/visual representations in respect of the sacred names.”

On March 17, FIA Director Mazharul Haq Kakakhel, during an Islamabad High Court (IHC) hearing of the blasphemy case, said the agency was investigating around 75 people in connection with the case.

He also said the FIA is consulting a lawyer to take up the matter with the International Court of Justice, but linked any tangible progress in the case with the active cooperation of Facebook.

The IHC will resume hearing the case on March 27. At an earlier hearing, on March 22, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui had remarked that the court may order a ban on social networking websites in Pakistan if the administrators of these websites do not cooperate in blocking or removing blasphemous content.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2017

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