By Mubasher Bukhari and Asif Shahzad
LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Pakistani mob lynching of a Sri Lankan manager of a garment factory who was accused of blasphemy was an act against the Islamic religion, a court said in a detailed ruling on Tuesday.
The anti-terrorism court had on Monday sentenced six men to death, nine to life in prison, one to five years’ jail and another 72 to two years each in a mass trial over the crime. Eight of those sentenced were juveniles.
Scores of enraged workers in the city of Sialkot tortured and burned DDN Priyantha Kumara in December over accusations of blasphemy which a police official at the time linked to the removal of a poster with Islamic holy verses.
“The disgracing of a dead body and setting it on fire are strictly forbidden in Islam,” the court ruled. “The Holy Prophet…forbade Muslims to disgrace the dead body of even a non-Muslim.”
The accused had disobeyed the Prophet Mohammed, added the court, which was set up inside a high-security prison.
Lynchings over accusations of blasphemy, both crimes that can carry the death sentence in Pakistan, have been frequent in the Muslim-majority country. The factory incident took place in the heart of Pakistan’s most heavily industrialised region.
Pakistani judges and courts have often delayed decisions in lynching cases out of fear of retribution, and a clear court declaration that lynching is un-Islamic is rare.
The court said Kumara begged forgiveness before being brutally killed, saying he did not know what was written on the poster because he could not speak the local Urdu language.
It said the mob chased him onto a roof and then “started hitting him again and again with scissors on his face, head and different parts of his body”. The attackers also inflicted “blows with a brick, kicks and fists to his head”.
Kumara died on the spot before his body was desecrated and dragged through his factory and out onto a highway where it was set on fire, the court said.
“In our society, such incidents are increasing where a person is done to death by a mob on an allegation of blasphemy,” it said. “These cases should be dealt with by iron hands.”
(Writing and reporting by Asif Shahzad in Islamabad, editing by Mark Heinrich)