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Two More Sentenced To Life In Pakistan Lynching Case

FILE: A protest against Mashaal Khan's lynching in Karachi, April 2017.
FILE: A protest against Mashaal Khan's lynching in Karachi, April 2017.

An antiterrorism court has sentenced two people to life in prison for the lynching of a university student in northwestern Pakistan.

Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old journalism student at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, was killed by a mob at the university on April 13, 2017.

He was accused of posting "blasphemous content" on social media.

The lynching sparked a wave of protests by civil society and rights activists forcing the government to arrest the accused.

Arif Khan, one of the two people convicted by the court on March 21, is a local counselor and belongs to the ruling Tehrik-e-Insaaf party of Prime Minister Imran Khan. The other man was identified as Asad.

Two other suspects identified as Sabir Mayar and Izhar were acquitted by the court.

In February last year, one person was sentenced to death and five other people to life imprisonment over Khan's lynching, and 26 people were acquitted in the case.

The attack on Khan, which was recorded on mobile phone cameras and posted online, shocked Pakistan and led to widespread condemnation -- including criticism from prominent Islamic clerics.

An official investigation later determined that Khan was falsely accused. It said the killing was instigated by members of a secular student group who felt threatened by Khan's growing prominence as a critic of rising fees and alleged corruption at the university.

Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, which seek death for insulting Islam or the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, were introduced by former military ruler General Muhammad Zia-ul Haq during the 1980s.

Rights activists argue that Pakistan's blasphemy laws are often misused by people trying to settle personal scores, mainly against the members of minorities.

With reporting by AP and Dawn