An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Abbottabad reserved its judgement in the Mashal Khan murder case after the hearing of the case was completed on Saturday. The verdict will be announced on February 7.

The ATC Judge Fazal-i-Subhan Khan heard the case in the heavily guarded Haripur Central Jail and reserved the decision after defence lawyers completed their arguments.

Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old student of journalism at the Abdul Wali Khan University was lynched to death on April 13, 2017 by an angry mob after allegations of blasphemy surfaced against him. The brutal, videotaped murder had shocked the nation, sparking a debate over the misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

The Peshawar High Court had transferred the case from Mardan to ATC Abbottabad, which heard the case in the Haripur jail, on a request of Mashal's father, who sought the move fearing his "influential adversaries".

Read: Mashal Khan: For lighting a flame in our hearts by losing his life

The ATC started hearing the case in September after indicting 57 arrested suspects including students and staff members of the university. It also rejected the bail application of the arrested men in the case.

During the course of the hearing, nearly 50 witnesses were presented before the court and had their statements recorded. The prosecution lawyers during the trial presented videos clips as alleged evidence that the arrested suspects were involved in lynching Mashal to death.

Mashal's father Iqbal Khan, his friends and teachers also recorded their statements before the ATC.

The court completed the hearing of the case in five months and 10 days.

'Premeditated plot against Mashal'

A joint investigation team (JIT) formulated to probe the lynching had found no proof that Mashal had committed blasphemy.

The JIT report had said that Mashal was murdered in line with a plan allegedly hatched by Sabir Mayar, the president of the Pakhtun Student's Federation (PSF) and Ajmal, the president of the employees at AWKU, where Mashal was studying Mass Communication.

Mashal 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, the report had added.

Days before he was lynched by the mob, Mashal in an interview to Khyber news channel had spoken against activities at the university and the administration.

The investigation revealed that illegal and criminal activities persisted in the university hostel and female students were also exploited in the university.

According to the report, Mayar viewed Mashal's stance against activities on campus to be a threat to the PSF.

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