By Mubasher Bukhari
LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – A court sentenced six men to death on Monday in a mass trial for the mob lynching of a clothes factory’s Sri Lankan manager in eastern Pakistan last year, the case’s public prosecutor said.
Scores of enraged workers in the city of Sialkot tortured and burned the man in December over accusations of blasphemy which a police official at the time linked to the removal of a poster with Islamic holy verses.
Mobile phone footage shows him being chased onto a roof then beaten with sticks, dragged onto the streets, stripped and set alight. One man who seeks to help him is shoved aside, according to images on social media that shocked both nations.
The Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore, set up inside a high-security prison, also gave life sentences to nine people, five years’ jail to one, and two-year sentences to 72, according to a statement from the public prosecutor.
Eight of those sentenced were juveniles.
“Mr. DDN Piryantha Kumara, General Manager, Rajco Factory, Sialkot was murdered on the allegations of blasphemy by the mob. Later on, the mob desecrated the dead body and ablazed the same,” the statement said.
There was no immediate confirmation of sentences from the court.
Lynchings over accusations of blasphemy, a crime that can carry the death sentence, have been frequent in Muslim-majority Pakistan. The factory incident took place in the heart of Pakistan’s most heavily-industrialised region.
Some 89 people were tried, the prosecutor said.
Though Pakistan’s judiciary still gives death penalties, they are rarely carried out given potential abolition under reforms linked to a trade agreement with the European Union.
(Reporting by Mubasher Bukhari; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)