An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan’s Lahore on Saturday acquitted 20 people who were suspected of being part of a mob that murdered a Christian couple accused of blasphemy in 2014.
A mob of about 1,000 people beat up brick factory workers Shehzad Masih and his wife Shama, and burnt them alive in an industrial kiln in Kot Kishan, a town located 50 km from Lahore. The crowd was incited to violence by a cleric’s announcement over a loudspeaker that they burnt the pages of the Koran. After the incident, the police had booked about 660 villagers, Dawn reported.
In November 2016, a court had sentenced to death five men, and imprisoned eight people for two years after they were found guilty. On Saturday, the court decided to acquit the 20 people giving them the benefit of the doubt, according to Dawn.
“The police have written in their report that these men were not involved in lynching the Christian couple,” said a prosecutor told local daily The Nation. “This is the reason that they have been acquitted.”
Blasphemy is a criminal offence in Pakistan, and insults against Prophet Mohammad are punishable by death. In April 2017, a student of the Abdul Wali Khan university, Mashal Khan, was lynched by a mob over allegations of blasphemy. Eight people had been charged with murder and terrorism in the case.