One awarded death sentence, 5 get life term in Mashal murder case

Posted February 09, 2018

A student of mass communication, Mashal Khan, was beaten and shot to death in the hostel of Abdul Wali Khan University in northwestern Mardan district in April for allegedly posting "blasphemous content" on Facebook.

Twenty-five others were convicted of lesser offences in the case and 26 people were acquitted.

How the Pakistani public responded: The death of Khan angered civil society and rights activists in Pakistan and saw people call for justice for Khan, as well as urging reform of blasphemy laws. The decision was announced in Central Prison of Haripur amid tight security. Prosecution lawyers presented videos clips of the lynching during the trial as evidence that the suspects were involved in Khan's murder.

The JIT report had revealed that the lynching Mashal Khan who was falsely accused of blasphemy was organized by other students from his own secular political group who viewed him as a rival and faculty members who resented his criticism of the university.

Blasphemy is a sensitive subject in Pakistan, where around 40 people are on death row or serving life sentences for the crime, according to the United States Commission of International Religious Freedom.

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The gathering was attended by local Khatm-e-Nabuwat workers, who chanted slogans in favour of those in jail, as well as those released, condemning the deceased Mashal Khan as a blasphemer.

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

The proceedings were held in an anti-terrorism court inside the jail for security reasons.

Chamkani said he was awaiting more details on the judgment.

"Imran Khan had promised he would rename Swabi University after Mashal Khan, but that has yet to happen".

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During their investigation, police determined there was no evidence Khan had committed blasphemy.

Rumours spread in April previous year that he had posted blasphemous material online, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan.

Blasphemy against Islam is punishable by death in Pakistan, and mere allegations are often enough to provoke mob violence.

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.

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