PESHAWAR: A local court on Wednesday indicted civil society activist Prof Mohammad Ismail on the charges of propagating hate speech, committing cyber- terrorism and spreading fake information against government institutions on social media.

The accused denied charges and decided to stand trial prompting district and sessions judge Ashfaque Taj to fix Jan 23 for hearing into the case.

The court directed the prosecution witnesses to appear before it on that date.

In the charge-sheet against the accused, the court declared that the Federal Investigation Agency, Peshawar, had found in an inquiry that Prof Ismail had uploaded hate speeches, obnoxious images and fake information against government institutions on his Facebook and Twitter accounts to deceive and mislead the public at large against those institutions.

Civil society activist denies charges

It added that through those actions, the accused had committed offences punishable under sections 9, 10 and 11 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2017, read with sections 153-A and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Prof Ismail was arrested in the case on Oct 24, 2019, from outside the Peshawar High Court. He had gone there to attend a hearing into his petition, which sought the quashing of a terror financing case registered by the counter-terrorism department, Peshawar, against him, his wife and social activist daughter Gulalai Ismail, who has been living in self-exile in the US.

The accused, who is also a member of the Pakistan NGOs Forum, had got a conditional bail by the high court on Nov 25, 2019, after being directed ‘not to repeat the offence.’ He was freed afterwards.

In the FIR, the FIA claimed that four people, including Sajid Iqbal, Ali Ahmad, Riazur Rehman and Wajid Mir, had lodged a complaint with the additional director at the FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing that two social media accounts, one on Facebook and another on Twitter, were used for spreading hate speech and fake information against the country’s government institutions.

It added that an application was submitted to the district and sessions judge to order the head of the security department and custodian of records, Facebook Incorporation, to produce details of the recent activities against that Facebook profile.

The FIA insisted that it had learnt that the Facebook ID in question was used by the accused.

The FIR was registered under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act’s Section 9 (glorification of an offence), Section 10 (cyber terrorism) and Section 11 (hate speech) and PPC’s Section 153-A (promotion of enmity between groups).

The accused has also filed a petition with the high court seeking the quashing of that FIR. The court adjourned hearing into that petition on Dec 8. In the petition, he had denied involvement in any act of cyber terrorism and hate speech.

During the pendency of that petition, the FIA submitted the challan (charge sheet) against Prof Ismail to the trial court. The terror financing trial against him, his wife and his daughter by the anti-terrorism court is also near completion.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2023

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