Mashal Khan: death sentence for Pakistan blasphemy murder

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. But this is what we've come to expect in nations like Pakistan and Bangladesh, where atheists (or alleged atheists) have been slaughtered for years with the government and law enforcement doing what often seems like the bare minimum in prosecuting the criminals. 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.

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.

In all 57 people were put on trial in connection with the murder, including fellow student Imran Ali, who knew the victim well and pleaded guilty to shooting him.

The court had earlier reserved its judgment on January 27 after hearing arguments by both sides.

Announcing the verdict in Mashal Khan Lynching case, the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Haripur sentenced accused Imran to death.

The accused were students, teachers and some officials of Abdul Wali Khan University named after a secular political leader in northwest Pakistan. Security was tight for the verdict, with hundreds of police deployed and roads closed around the prison.

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No one deserves to be physically harmed - much less brutally slaughtered - for anything they say or think.

He reiterated his demand that the University of Swabi should be renamed as University of Mashal Khan. Widely circulated mobile phone footage showed him being beaten, stamped on and shot.

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

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

The lynching attack was caught on video and posted on social media, resulting in widespread condemnation in Pakistan and around the world regarding the country's despotic blasphemy laws, under which insulting Islam or the prophet Muhammad can lead to the death penalty. The crowd hit his body after his death.

  • Sonia Alvarado