Pak court gives death sentence for lynching of university student Mashal Khan
Mashal Khan was stripped, beaten, shot and then thrown from the second floor of his university dorm over a false allegation of blasphemy.world Updated: Feb 07, 2018 19:47 IST
A Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Wednesday sentenced one person to death and gave life terms to five others for the brutal lynching of student Mashal Khan after he was falsely accused of blasphemy last year.
The court in the garrison town of Abbotabad also gave four-year prison terms to 25 people and exonerated 26 of the 58 suspects for lack of evidence. The ruling was announced within Haripur Central Jail, where the trial was conducted for security reasons, as relatives of some of the convicts protested outside.
Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old student of journalism at Abdul Wali Khan University in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, was beaten and then shot dead by a mob after he was accused of blasphemy on April 13.
Hundreds of students and some staff members marched through the campus searching for Khan. Members of the mob broke into his hostel room and dragged him out. The crowd hit his body after his death.
Videos of the lynching were shared on social media, sending shockwaves across Pakistan and triggering a debate on the misuse of the controversial blasphemy laws.
A subsequent police investigation revealed that the accusation of blasphemy was false and that Khan was targeted for speaking out against corruption at the university. The police said the murder was premeditated as members of the Pakhtoon Students Federation, the student wing of the Awami National Party, felt threatened by Khan raising his voice against irregularities in his university.
The court awarded capital punishment to prime accused Imran as evidence proved he had fired the fatal shots at Khan. Five others were give life terms of 25 years.
Referring to the suspects who were exonerated, the court said: “No conclusive evidence is brought on record against them and at the same time they were not found to have played any overt act in the lynching of Mashal Khan whereas though identified in the videos/PFSA report, they could only be seen standing in the mob or making videos. Therefore they are acquitted of all charges levelled against them and it is directed that they shall be released forthwith if not required in any other case.”
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government announced soon after the judgment that it would appeal against the acquittal of 26 suspects. “We will also file an appeal for extreme punishment of those already awarded (life imprisonment),” said a statement from the provincial home department.
The parents of the suspects staged a protest outside prison after they were prohibited from entering the courtroom as the judge prepared to announce the verdict.
The court had earlier reserved its judgment on January 27 after hearing arguments by both sides.
Local media reported that during the hearing of the case, nearly 50 witnesses appeared before the judge and recorded their statements. Prosecution lawyers presented videos clips of the lynching during the trial as evidence that the suspects were involved in Khan’s murder.