PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday admitted to regular hearing three appeals challenging an anti-terrorism court’s decision to acquit two of the accused in Mashal Khan lynching case and seeking death sentence for two of the convicts.
After holding preliminary hearing into the appeals filed by Mashal Khan’s father Mohammad Iqbal, a bench consisting of Justice Syed Afsar Shah and Justice Muhammad Ibrahim Khan issued notices to acquitted persons Izharullah alias Joni and Sabirullah alias Sabir Mayar and convicts Asad Zia alias Asad Katlang and tehsil councillor Arif Khan.
An appeal challenged the acquittal of Izharullah and Sabir, while the other requested the high court to increase the sentence of life imprisonment awarded to Asad and Arif to death penalty.
Student’s father challenges acquittals, seeks death penalty for two convicts
In the third appeal the appellant Muhammad Iqbal has also challenged the acquittal of the two convicts, Asad and Arif in some provisions of Pakistan Penal Code and Anti-Terrorism Act.
An anti-terrorism court (ATC) had on Mar 21 convicted Asad, who is a former employee of Abdul Wali Khan University, and Arif and sentenced them on multiple counts to life imprisonment with fine of Rs 300,000 each.
The court had acquitted accused Izharullah and Sabir Mayar, both students, ruling that the prosecution didn’t produce any cogent and convincing evidence against them nor were they seen in any of the video clips showed by the prosecution.
The four accused in question weren’t tried initially as they had absconded after the lynching incident. They were arrested last year.
Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old student of the Department of Mass Communication at the Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, was lynched by a mob over the allegation of blasphemy on Apr 13, 2017.
After trial, an ATC had convicted 31 of the 57 accused on Feb 7, 2018 awarding death sentence to the prime accused, Imran Khan, life imprisonment to five of them, and three years imprisonment to 25 others.
However, the court, which had conducted the initial trial inside Haripur Central Prison, had acquitted 26 of the accused observing that the prosecution failed to prove charges against them.
Barrister Amirullah Khan Chamkani appeared for the appellant and contended that the evidence produced by the prosecution against the two acquitted accused were irrefutable.
He said the criminal conspiracy had been proved by the prosecution beyond doubt and as such, the accused’s acquittal under Section 120-B of PPC dealing with criminal conspiracy was an error on part of the trial court.
In the appeal seeking the change of life imprisonment awarded to the two convicts into death penalty, the counsel said the offence committed by both of them was gruesome, inhuman, and barbaric and shook the very core of the society.
He said the two convicts didn’t show any remorse for the commission of the offence.
Several appeals of the earlier convicts and that of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and Mohammad Iqbal against acquittal of the accused and awarding nominal sentence to several of the accused in the earlier trial have been pending with the high court.
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2019