Mashal Khan. - A file photo

PESHAWAR: An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Thursday awarded life imprisonment to two accused in Mashal Khan murder case, while two other accused were acquitted.

A former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) councillor Arif Khan and Asad Katlang was convicted after being proven guilty in the 2017 murder of Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan.

The court acquitted two suspects Sabir Mayar and Izhar Joni for lack of evidence. The verdict in the case was reserved on March 12 and it was announced on Wednesday. At least 46 witnesses had recorded their statements in court. The video of Mashal Khan’s murder, which circulated on social media, was also presented as evidence in front of the court.

These four accused had been absconding the case proceedings and later on surrendered themselves to the court last year in June. The case proceedings started on June 21, 2018 after the absconding suspects surrendered themselves to the court of law.

Mashal Khan, a journalism student, was lynched by an angry mob at the Abdul Wali Khan University on April 13, 2017 after he was accused of blasphemy. The lynching took place within the premises of the university and was caught on video which later circulated on social media. However, investigations carried out after the murder did not prove that Mashal Khan committed blasphemy. The murder of the student drew worldwide condemnation and action was sought against the culprits. The horrific incident shocked the nation and sparked a debate over the misuse of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

A total of 61 suspects were arrested after the murder. The main accused of the murder, Imran was given death sentence on two counts, five suspects were awarded 25-year imprisonment, while 25 other suspects were awarded four-year imprisonment each by an Anti-Terrorism Court in Abbottabad in February last year. However, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) had released the 25 suspects on bail who had got four years imprisonment earlier.

Iqbal Khan, father of Mashal Khan, said while talking to media after the verdict that he was not satisfied with the verdict and he would challenge the court’s decision to acquit the two accused in the high court.

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