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PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Wednesday filed three appeals with the Peshawar High Court seeking the cancelation of an anti-terrorism court’s decision to acquit 26 accused in the Mashal Khan lynching case along with stricter sentences for 31 convicts.

The appeals filed through KP advocate general Abdul Lateef Yousafzai said the prosecution had established the case through direct strong circumstantial evidence against all 57 accused persons tried by the ATC.

On Feb 7, an anti-terrorism court had convicted 31 of the 57 accused facing trial in the last year’s Mashal Khan lynching case, awarding death sentence to the prime accused, life imprisonment to five of them and three years imprisonment to 25 others.

Seeks cancellation of ATC’s decision to release 26 accused, stricter sentences for convicts

However, the ATC, which conducted the trial inside the Haripur Central Prison, had acquitted 26 of the accused, observing that the prosecution failed to prove charges against them.

Few days ago, Mashal’s brother Aimal Iqbal Khan had filed an appeal with the high court against the acquittal of the 26 accused persons.

In the appeal against the acquittal of the 26 accused, the provincial government has prayed the high court to set aside the judgment of the ATC to the extent of their acquittal and they may be convicted and punished under different provisions of law.

The appellant said the trial court had committed a grave error and illegality by acquitting them as plethora of evidence was produced by the prosecution against them.

It added that during the probe, the investigation officer (IO) collected the DVDs, CDs, USB and mobile phones containing the videos of the occurrence at various places in the Abdul Wali Khan University.

“As shown by the videos, the accused severely tortured Mashal inside and outside Hostel No 1 and announcing abusing of the dead body in the main gate and in parking areas as well. The accused can be seen in all those videos at different spots, which has also been identified by the Punjab Forensic Science Agency in their report,” it said, adding that the said important piece of evidence against the accused wasn’t considered by the trial court.

The appellant contended that the acquittal of the accused was not sustainable in law as no detailed reasons whatsoever had been given by the trial court.

One of the appeals was filed for awarding death sentence to five of the convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment by the trial court.

Two of those convicts, including Bilal Buksh and Mudassir Bashir, were sentenced to life imprisonment on three counts under Pakistan Penal Code Section 302 (intentional murder) and Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and Anti-Terrorism Act Section 7 (a) (act of terrorism).

The other three accused, Fazl-i-Raziq, Mujeebullah and Ishfaq Khan, were sentenced to life imprisonment on two counts, including ATA sections 302 PPC and 7(a).

The appellant claimed that prior to the arrival of the police the accused had broken into the Journalism Department causing damage to the building and gave severe beating to Abdullah for his friendship with Mashal and for his refusal to charge Mashal for committing blasphemy.

It said Abdullah was rescued and shifted to hospital by the police following which the accused reached faculty hostel and threatened Ziaullah Hamdard (a teacher at Journalism department) for his association with Mashal Khan.

The appellant said at the hostel the accused snatched the cellular phone of Ziaullah when they noticed the SMS of Mashal stating himself to be in Room No 105 of Hostel No 1 and requested for rescue.

It added that the enraged mob broke into the room of Mashal and brought him out.

The appellant said the accused Imran fired gunshots at Mashal as he tried to escape and after that, the mob put him to severe assault causing his death.

The appellant said the trial court had not appreciated the prosecution evidence in its true perspective to the extent that the convicted accused were not awarded the normal penalty of death.

In the third appeal, the government challenged the awarding of lesser sentence to 25 of the accused who were acquitted of the charges of murder, criminal conspiracy and terrorism, but were sentenced to three years imprisonment for lynching and one-year imprisonment for desecrating Mashal’s body.

The appellant requested the court to award punishment to the accused under those provisions of the law in which they were acquitted by the ATC including murder, hatching criminal conspiracy and terrorism.

The appellant said there was consistency in the statements of prosecution witnesses and the same was corroborated by circumstantial, medical and scientific evidence including positive report of FSL (forensic science laboratory) and confessional statements.

About the main convict, Imran, who had fired at Mashal, the appellant challenged his acquittal under the section dealing with criminal conspiracy and requested the court to convict him under that provision.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2018