Islamabad: A Pakistan court on Wednesday sentenced one person to death and another 30 to between 4-25 years of imprisonment for lynching a student over accusations of blasphemy.
Imran Ali, who had pleaded guilty to shooting Mashal Khan in April after he was lynched by a group of students, was handed the death penalty and was also ordered to pay a fine of 150,000 Pakistani rupees ($1,355).
Another five people were sentenced to 25 years in prison, and another 25 to four years in prison.
Judge Fazl Subhan acquitted another 26 accused for lack of evidence at a hearing that was held at the Haripur central jail in northwestern Pakistan amid tight security, prison spokesperson Farid Ullah told Efe news.
Out of the 61 who were accused of being involved in the lynching, three are still on the run.
The government of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the lynching took place, said in a statement that it will appeal against the acquittals and seek tougher sentences for the convicted.
The incident took place on April 13, 2017 at the Abdul Wali Khan University in the city of Mardan, where a group of youngsters lynched and killed the journalism student over rumours that he had shared blasphemous content on social media.
The lynching was recorded on video which was later circulated on social media.
Speaking to the media outside the courtroom, Mashal’s brother Aimal said that he hoped no one ever has to go through the ordeal his family suffered.
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.
Days before he was lynched by the mob, Khan in an interview to Khyber news channel, had spoken against activities at the university and the administration.
Blasphemy became a controversial issue in Pakistan after laws were amended in the 1980s making it an offence punishable by the death penalty, although nobody has been executed so far.
Despite the tightening of the law, at least 53 people have been killed by mobs in Pakistan until now over alleged blasphemy.