Pain, e-Pen & Penitentiary…
It seems that a blasphemous tweet has proved to be expensive for a 28-year-old Indian engineer, who has landed in a jail in Saudi Arabia.
Vishnu Dev from the southern Indian province of Kerala has been working in an oil company in the West Asian country for the last few years. Recently, the Saudi authorities ordered Dev to serve a 10-year jail term and to pay a fine of INR 3 million for tweeting on Prophet Muhammad while replying to a friend on the micro-blogging site. Now, his family members are knocking the doors of Saudi rulers to secure his freedom. However, they are yet to get any assurance!
Radhakrishnan Nair – Dev’s father and a former officer of the Indian Air Force (IAF) – revealed the sad story of his son, saying that Dev had befriended a London-based Muslim lady on Twitter a couple of years ago and started discussing various social issues there. When the lady made a negative comment on the most powerful god of the Hindu pantheon, Lord Shiva, Dev tweeted against the Prophet Muhammad as a counter argument. The Indian youth argued that if the Prophet was merciful, then why did terrorists bombed schools in Yemen? “This tweet led to his arrest and sentencing,” said the father.
As Dev was an employee of Nazzer S Al-Hajri Corporation, a subsidiary of Aramco Oil Company, he had sent the tweet through Aramco’s server. According to Nair, a senior Aramco officer might have taken a screenshot of Dev’s tweet and informed the police. Before his detention, top Aramco officials grilled the Indian and told him that he might be deported for the ‘offence’. However, Dev was booked under cybercrime, pertaining to blasphemy and spreading a message against the Kingdom and Prophet through social media.
Initially, a lower court awarded five years imprisonment to Dev and also asked him to pay a fine of SAR 150,000 on September 13, 2018. Later on January 24, 2019, a higher court enhanced his sentence to 10 years.
Although Nair has informed Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and senior Opposition MP Shashi Tharoor about his son’s fate, the Indian government is yet to discuss the issue with the concerned authorities in Riyadh. Blasphemy laws exist in liberal and secular India, but are rarely used. The Indian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology issued new rules in 2011, requiring operators of social media networks to screen and remove blasphemous content within 36 hours of receiving a complaint.
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