Pakistan convicts dozens over lynching of student accused of blasphemy

Mashal Khan

Most of the 61 suspects arrested by the police were Khan's fellow students at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.

The court acquitted 26 others out of a total of 57 people indicted by a court late previous year. Protests were held demanding justice for Khan and there has been a debate about excessive use of blasphemy allegations to settle personal grievances.

The Haripur Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) pronounced its verdict on Wednesday, 7 February, from inside a jail as the proceedings took place there for security reasons.

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.

Imran Ali, the prime suspect in the case, confessed to shooting Mr Khan three times.

The anti-terrorism court reserved its verdict in the case on January 27.

The court also acquitted 26 people in the case. Prosecution lawyers presented videos clips of the lynching during the trial as evidence that the suspects were involved in Khan's murder.

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

No one deserves to be physically harmed - much less brutally slaughtered - for anything they say or think. According to a probe report, Mashal Khan had been vocal about the rights of students at the university and even challenged the appointment of a new vice chancellor (VC) at the university to ensure that students were able to obtain their degrees, which is not possible without the VC's signature, Dawn online reported.

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.

Although people have received the death penalty for blasphemy, the state has not yet executed anyone for the crime.

The killing of student Mashal Khan, 23, in 2017 sparked an outcry and raised fresh questions about the misuse of a harsh blasphemy law, which carries a death sentence for insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad.

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