A Gujranwala Anti-Terrorism Court on Monday sentenced six men to death for their role in the brutal lynching of Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara, who was assaulted by an enraged mob after being accused of committing blasphemy.
Kumara, 48, had been employed at Sialkot’s RajCo Industries Factory for over a decade, and was lynched over blasphemy allegations on Dec. 3, 2021. Following his murder, the mob desecrated his body and set it on fire. In March, after three months of investigation, police filed charges against 89 suspects, nine of them minors.
According to a press release issued by authorities, the prosecution produced 43 witnesses, including eyewitnesses, to prove the charges against the accused. It said that the prosecution had relied on eyewitness accounts, forensic, audio, video and documentary evidence to prove their case, adding that the trial court had subsequently provided ample opportunity to the accused and their advocates to defend themselves.
Of the 89 men under trial, six—Taimoor, Abdul Rehman, Muhammad Irshad, Ali Husnain, Abu Talha, Muhammad Humair—have been sentenced to death under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (capital punishment), and Section 7 (punishment for acts of terrorism) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. They would also be required to pay Rs. 200,000 each in compensation to the legal heirs of the deceased.
Meanwhile, nine accused—Rohail Amjad, Muhammad Shoaib, Ihtesham Zaib, Imran Riaz, Sajid Ameen, Zaigham Mehdi, Ali Hamza, Luqman Haider, Abdul Saboor—have been sentenced to life imprisonment as well as fines of Rs. 200,000 each and Rs. 200,000 in compensation to the legal heirs.
Of the remaining suspects, 72 have been sentenced to 2 years’ rigorous imprisonment, while one accused, Ali Asghar, has been sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment and one accused has been acquitted of all charges.
Kumara’s brutal killing had elicited widespread condemnations from government officials and human rights bodies. Then-prime minister Imran Khan, in December, had announced he was personally overseeing the investigations and had vowed to ensure “all those responsible will be punished with full severity of the law.” The Chief of Army Staff, likewise, described the murder as “extremely condemnable and shameful,” and stressed that such “extrajudicial vigilantism” could never be condoned.
Then-special representative to the P.M. on Interfaith Harmony Tahir Ashrafi had also emphasized that Islam does not allow for incidents such as the mob lynching of Kumara. However, he had rubbished calls for reforms of the blasphemy laws, claiming the controversial legislation actually “protects” people accused of blasphemy and reduces the possibility of them being extra-judicially murdered.