Pak to hang 1 of 31 convicted for lynching student for 'blasphemy'

Frederick Owens
February 9, 2018

A Pakistani court on Wednesday sentenced the killer of Mashal Khan, a student of Bacha Khan University, to death and awarded 25 years imprisonment to five co-accused.

A court in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province acquitted 26 other suspects in the killing of Mashal Khan a year ago, which sparked outcry in the religiously conservative country. A total of 57 accused were today presented before the judge, who sentenced 25 to four-year jail term and acquitted 26 others for want of evidence.

According to the US Commission of International Religious Freedom, about 40 people in Pakistan are now on death row or serving life sentences for alleged blasphemy crimes. Members of the mob broke into his hostel room and dragged him out.

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. The police said the murder was premeditated as members of the Pakhtoon Students Federation, the student wing of the Awami National Party, felt threatened by Khan raising his voice against irregularities in his university.

Blasphemy is an enormously sensitive charge in Pakistan, and a criminal offence that can carry the death penalty.

Students who participated in the lynching were later rounded up after being identified using CCTV footage from the university and video clips. A police investigation later revealed that Khan was targeted after he spoke out against the rising school fees caused by what he believed to be nepotism.

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He was fined £973 and handed a death sentence today.

There was a huge outpouring of solidarity and grief. Protests were held demanding justice for Mr Khan and there has been a debate about excessive use of blasphemy allegations to settle personal grievances.

Many people in Khan's home village stayed away from his funeral, fearing being attacked by hardliners.

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.

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

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