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Iraqi man sentenced to 2 years in prison for ‘insulting’ Prophet Mohammed on Facebook

An Iraqi man has been sentenced to two years in prison for  alleged blasphemous comments against the Prophet Mohammed on Facebook, according to a statement from Iraq’s Judicial Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The Judicial Supreme Court’s media office said a court in al-Qadisiyah province, south of Baghdad, sentenced a man for “obscene words” against the Islamic prophet on Facebook.

“After taking legal measures against the accused, he was arrested. After investigating him, he confessed he owned the [Facebook] page and that all the comments were issued by him as an atheist,” read the statement.

The supreme court claimed that the man had “harmed the feelings of millions of Muslims in the East and West” through his alleged defamatory comments, adding that he was sentenced as per Article 372 of Iraqi Penalty Code which has been in place since 1969.

The clause stipulates that “whoever publicly insults a symbol or person who is revered, glorified, or respected by a sect should be sentenced to up to three years” or fined.

Iraq is a Muslim-majority country, with a predominantly Shiite population in the center and south and a smaller Sunni population in the north and west. It is also home to some of the oldest Christian communities in the world and several smaller sects, including Yezidis.

Many Muslims in the world see any criticism of Prophet Mohammed as blasphemy, claiming it is a red line.

In its annual report published late April, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) noted that little change has been made to laws regarding religious expression in Iraq.

“Blasphemy and apostasy laws likewise remained unchanged, and there was no movement toward extending formal recognition or freedom of worship to smaller religious groups such as Baha’is, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others.”

It added that progress on the promotion of religious freedoms in Iraq is being “impeded” by Iran-backed militia groups who have been accused of violating human rights since its foundation in 2014.

USCIRF recommended the inclusion of Iraq to “the US Department of State’s Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).” Source