PESHAWAR/ ISLAMABAD: The anti-terrorism court in Abbotabad on Wednesday awarded death sentence to one and 25-year-prison to five others in the Mashal Khan murder case.
The decision, announced by judge Fazal-e-Subhan Khan at Haripur Central Jail, convicted sentenced 25 others under section 297/148/149 PPC to one (1) year R.I and Under section 11-WW ATA, 1997 to 3 years R.I.
The court exonerated 26 out of 57 accused in the Mardan lynching case. "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 leveled against them and it is directed that they shall be released forthwith if not required in any other case," the judgement reads.
The capital punishment has been awarded to prime accused Imran Sultan under section 302(b) and section 7(1)(a) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) while five have been convicted and sentenced to life-imprisonment under section 302(b)/148/149 of PPC.
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government announced it will appeal against the acquittal of accused. "The K-P govt will go into an appeal against all those who have been acquitted," a press release issued by the K-P Home Department said. "We will also file an appeal for extreme punishment of those already awarded [life imprisonment]."
Mashal's family unhappy with ATC verdict
Speaking to the media after the verdict was announced, Mashal’s mother expressed dissatisfaction over the acquittal of the accused. “It was a pre-mediated murder,” she told reporters during a press conference. “They all had come to kill him, then why are some of them set free?”
“The murder was committed in broad-day light, why are we being denied justice?” she asked.
The victim’s mother stressed that the accused should be given exemplary punishment to ensure such an incident is not repeated.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah disappointed over verdict
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanullah expressed his disappointment at the ATC verdict. The Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) leader said the K-P government's incompetence in investigating and prosecuting the case had aided accused. He claimed that a worker belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had been freed during the inquiry process.
Earlier, the parents of the arrested suspects staged a protest outside the anti-terrorism court after being prohibited from entering the courtroom before the verdict was announced.
The ATC in Abbottabad reserved its judgment on January 27 in the Mashal Khan murder case after the hearing of the case was completed.
The Peshawar High Court transferred the case from Mardan to ATC Abbottabad, which heard the case in the Haripur jail, on a request of the victim’s father, who had sought the move fearing his “influential adversaries”.
The ATC started hearing the case back in September after indictment of 57 arrested suspects which included students and staff members of the varsity. It also rejected bail application of arrested men in the case.
During the course of the hearing, nearly 50 witnesses were presented before the court and recorded their statements. The prosecution lawyers during the trial presented videos clips as alleged evidence that the arrested suspects were involved in lynching Mashal to death.
The 23-year-old, a student at the Abdul Wali Khan University, was lynched to death by a mob on allegations of blasphemy on April 13 last year. The brutal incident was videotaped sending shockwaves nationwide, as well as, triggering a debate over the misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.
Read the judgement here: