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Eight charged with murder in Pakistan university student's lynching case

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive charge in conservative Muslim Pakistan and can carry the death penalty. Even unproven allegations can cause mob lynchings and violence. Photograph: (Zee News Network)

AFP Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan Apr 15, 2017, 10.10 AM (IST)

Two days after a Pakistani journalism student was lynched to death on a university campus for posting supposedly blasphemous content on social media, court officials said Saturday that eight fellow students were charged with murder and terrorism.

Police have arrested 45 people in connection with Mashal Khan's murder and are on the lookout for more students involved in the crime, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.

"Eight students were presented before an anti-terrorism court in Mardan over murder and challenging the writ of the state," public prosecutor Rafiullah Khan told AFP.

Mashal Khan -- who was studying at Abdul Wali Khan University -- was kicked, stripped and shot to death by a large mob in the conservative northwestern town of Mardan on Thursday.

Footage that was recovered showed several university students -- some of them allegedly student body leaders -- kicking and beating Khan's lifeless body with wooden planks, Pakistani media reported.

Mardan's Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Mohammad Alam Shinwari said the 23-year-old victim died of a fatal gunshot.

The police official told Dawn that Khan was brutally murdered for "promoting the Ahmadi faith on Facebook".

Ahmadi Muslims have faced persecution since the movement began in the late 19th century. Sunni Muslims regard them as heretics.

The footage found at the crime scene also showed how people were forcing him to recite verses of Holy Quran. The video also showed Khan insisting that he was not an Ahmadi and did not promote it on Facebook.

Students had previously complained to university authorities about Khan's alleged secular and liberal views and Khan had been in a heated debate during a class the day he was killed.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive charge in conservative Muslim Pakistan, and can carry the death penalty. Even unproven allegations can cause mob lynchings and violence.

At least 65 people have been murdered by vigilantes over blasphemy allegations since 1990.

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has urged that all those involved in the lynching be brought to justice. 

At his funeral on Friday, Khan's father said he hoped his son's murder would "evoke realisation among people that killing an innocent is a sin".

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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