The Supreme Court has accepted an appeal filed by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government to hear their application enhancing sentences for the men convicted in the 2017 Mashal Khan lynching case, reported Dawn.
A three-member bench comprising Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel heard the appeal.
The apex court has also granted leave to appeal to multiple convicts who have approached the top court and sought exoneration from the charges and subsequent acquittal, according to the report.
During Tuesday's hearing, KP Addition Attorney General told the court that the provincial government filed the appeal against the Peshawar High Court's November 2020 order in which the death sentence of the prime convict Imran Ali was converted to life imprisonment.
The KP government and Mashal Khan's father had filed multiple appeals against the acquittal of 28 people accused in the case and to increase the sentence of 25 convicts who were awarded three-year imprisonment and seven others who were handed down life imprisonment.
Imran Ali, the prime acused who was found guilty of opening fire at Mashal Khan and was sentenced to death by the anti-terrorism court, also filed an appeal in the court against his conviction, while similar appeals were filed by other convicts who had been awarded imprisonment in the case.
During the hearing in the apex court on Tuesday, the KP AAG argued that digital evidence in the case against the convicts was available and had been verified by the Punjab Forensic Science Agency. Eight confessional statements were also available on record, he told the top court.
The sentence of the 26 accused, who were awarded three-year jail term, were liable to be enhanced, the additional attorney general said, adding the prosecution had proved the case beyond any shadow of doubt.
On April 13, 2017, Mashal Khan, 23-year-old student of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, was lynched on blasphemy charges, a claim his family vehemently denied.
Two days after the lynching, the then chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar took suo moto notice of the incident and ordered an inquiry into it.
A 13-member joint investigation team in its report concluded that the allegation of blasphemy against Khan were unfounded and that they were used as a pretext to incite a mob against him.
Some of the employees of the university were also involved in his lynching, reported Samma.
In 2018, an anti-terrorism court convicted 31 of the 57 accused in the lynching case awarding death sentence to the prime accused Imran Ali, life imprisonment to five of them, and three years imprisonment to 25 others.
However, the court acquitted 26 of the accused declaring that the prosecution failed to prove charges against them.
Meanwhile, it issued perpetual warrants for the arrest of four absconders accused in the case. One of them was Arif Khan, a tehsil councillor of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Others were Asad Zia alias Asad Katlang, an office assistant at the university, and students Izharullah alias Joni and Sabirullah alias Sabir Mayar.
Later, the absconders were held and tried by another anti-terrorism court in Peshawar.
In 2019, the court convicted Arif and Asad and sentenced them on multiple counts to life imprisonment and Rs300,000 fine each. The two other accused were acquitted.