Pakistani Court Convicts 31 Men of Lynching Student Falsely Accused of Blasphemy

Journalism student Mashal Khan was shot and brutally lynched on campus on April 13
Journalism student Mashal Khan was shot and brutally lynched on campus on April 13

09 February, 2018

An anti-terrorism court in Haripur on Wednesday announced verdicts for 57 of the 61 suspects who had been charged in connection with the case.

Twenty-six others were acquitted as the judge read out the verdicts for each of the accused.

Some of the 50 people who gave testimonies to the court said he had angered the university administration by criticising their management in the weeks before his death. One will receive the death sentence, another five will go to jail for life, 25 others will receive lesser punishments, and 26 have been let off the hook.

The incident took place on April 13, 2017 at the Abdul Wali Khan University in the city of Mardan, where a group of youngsters lynched and killed the journalism student over rumours that he had shared blasphemous content on social media.

Pakistani students, teachers and officials have been convicted of murdering a scholar accused of blasphemy past year at a north-west Pakistan university, with strict punishments handed down to some of the perpetrators.

He was attacked after a debate on religion at his dormitary, with an investigation ruling that Khan did not engage in blasphemy.

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The report also pointed out that several countries including China, Russia and Malaysia had failed to stop the illegal exports. They also inspected cargo from two North Korea shipments intercepted by unidentified countries en route to Syria.

Pakistan's then prime minister Nawaz Sharif held off on commenting on Mr Khan's death until he had been cleared of blasphemy.

Blasphemy became a controversial issue in Pakistan after laws were amended in the 1980s making it an offence punishable by the death penalty, although nobody has been executed so far. Members of the mob broke into his hostel room and dragged him out. He was the only person who received a death sentence. Prosecution lawyers presented videos clips of the lynching during the trial as evidence that the suspects were involved in Khan's murder.

Mobile phone footage showed him being beaten, stamped on and shot.

In June, a police inquiry into the allegations against Khan found him innocent of having committed blasphemy.

In 2014, several hundred Muslim men bludgeoned a Christian man and his pregnant wife to death and threw their bodies in a burning brick kiln after the couple was accused of blasphemy.

Since 1990 vigilantes have been accused of murdering 65 people tied to blasphemy, according to research compiled by the Center for Research and Security Studies.

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