Justice served in Priyantha Kumara’s lynching case, 6 awarded death penalty

At least 800 people have been booked under the Anti-Terrorism Act on behalf of the Ugoki police station Photo: AFP
NEWS DESK

An anti-terrorism court in Lahore announced the verdict in the mob lynching of Sri Lankan citizen Priyantha Kumara on false allegations of blasphemy in Sialkot last December, awarding death penalty to six prime suspects on Monday.

Seven suspects were given the sentence of life imprisonment and 76 others two years in prison each, Media reported.

One suspect was acquitted, Punjab Prosecution Department Secretary Nadeem Sarwar said in a press conference in Lahore.

Priyantha, a 49-year-old Sri Lankan national, was lynched by a mob of workers at a factory on December 3, 2021, where he was working as a manager.

A first information report (FIR) was registered against hundreds of unidentified men, including workers of the factory.

The incident had seen widespread outrage and condemnation across Pakistan with politicians, scholars and civil society members calling for swift punishment to be meted out to the perpetrators.

“The prosecution team presented a total of 43 witnesses in order to prove the crime against suspects,” Sarwar said in the press conference today, adding that forensic, audio and video evidence was also used to prove the crime.

“In less than a month, the prosecution completed the testimonies of witnesses. After that, the court gave them full chance to defend themselves. Today, the ATC Gujranwala, upon the crime being proven, has punished 88 accused while one has been acquitted.

“This is a very good day as the law punished those who took away an innocent life. It is now hoped that the elements spreading religious extremism will be dealt in the same manner.”

The ATC had indicted 89 individuals on March 12. According to the challan submitted by the police, 80 of the accused are adults while nine of them are minors.

Judge Natasha Naseem had conducted the trial in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail.

The statements of the accused had been recorded under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedures (CrPC).

Five prosecutors, including Senior Special Prosecutor Abdul Rauf Wattoo, appeared during the trial. The prosecution had made 46 eyewitnesses part of the challan.

According to the challan, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, videos, digital evidence, DNA evidence, forensic evidence, eyewitnesses, including Kumara’s colleague who had tried to save him from the mob, were made part of the investigation.

It stated that footage from 10 digital video recorders in the factory was sent for forensic analysis, while the accused were traced via videos from social media and footage recovered from the mobile phones of 55 accused.