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Pakistan: 57 indicted for lynching of university student Mashal Khan

A vigilante mob had falsely accused university student Mashal Khan of blasphemy and he was stripped, beaten and shot on the campus in northwest Pakistan.

world Updated: Sep 20, 2017 00:17 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Mashal Khan,lynching of Pakistani university student,blasphemy in Pakistan
Members of the Awami Workers Party shout slogans at a protest in Karachi as they hold pictures with the image of university student Mashal Khan, who was beaten to death by fellow students after being falsely accused of blasphemy at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan. (Reuters)

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Tuesday indicted 57 people for the brutal lynching of a university student who was falsely accused of blasphemy five months ago.

Mashal Khan, who was a student of journalism at the Abdul Wali Khan University at Mardan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, was stripped, beaten and shot by fellow students on April 13.

Strict security measures were put in place around Haripur jail where the trial of the accused is being conducted. The arrested men were presented before the judge of the anti-terrorism court, who is conducting the hearings within the prison for security reasons.

All those indicted in the case pleaded not guilty. The judge also rejected the bail applications of 17 of the accused.

The next hearing will be held on Wednesday, when the prosecution and defence will present their arguments. Khan's father, Iqbal Khan, is set appear before the judge on Wednesday.

A vigilante mob, incited by rumours, had attacked Khan for allegedly "publishing blasphemous content online". The mass communication student was beaten and shot by the mob as several people filmed the lynching with their mobile phones.

Villagers carry the body of university student Mashal Khan for burial in Swabi, Pakistan, on April 14, 2017. Police said a group of students at Abdul Wali Khan University in the northwestern city of Mardan attacked and killed Khan after accusing him of sharing blasphemous content on Facebook. ( AP )

A report compiled by a joint investigation team that probed the lynching said that a group within the university had incited a mob against the outspoken Khan by using the pretext of blasphemy. It added no proof was found that Khan had ever committed the offence.

In July, chief justice Yahya Afridi of the Peshawar high court had ordered the transfer of the murder case to an anti-terrorism court after Khan's father sought the move, saying he feared his "influential adversaries".

Iqbal Khan also requested the high court to pay his legal fees and asked the Supreme Court to provide protection to his daughters, who haven’t been to school since Khan’s murder.

The lunching had triggered widespread protests across Pakistan, and rights groups and political parties had demanded an impartial investigation into the incident.

First Published: Sep 19, 2017 18:58 IST