A Pakistan court Monday sentenced six people to death and nine others to life in prison after convicting them for their roles in last year’s vigilante killing of a Sri Lankan factory manager accused by workers of committing blasphemy, a defense lawyer said.
The six men sentenced to death were convicted of murder in a case that outraged many Pakistanis. As many as 73 additional men were given jail terms of two to five years by the anti-terrorism court after finding them guilty of playing a role in the killing of Priyantha Kumara.
Kumara was killed in December by workers at a sports equipment factory in Pakistan’s eastern Sialkot district where he was a manager.
According to defense lawyer Israr Ullah, the judge announced the verdicts after concluding the trial at a jail in Lahore, the capital of eastern Punjab province.
The killing of Kumara drew nationwide attention, with many people demanding the killers be publicly hanged.
Kumara was initially beaten by his Pakistani colleagues inside the factory who had accused him of desecrating posters bearing the name of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. His body was later dragged outside the factory and burned by an angry mob.
According to officials, 89 suspects were tried in the killing of Kumara and one of them was acquitted.
In conservative Pakistan, a mere allegation of blasphemy can invite mob attacks. The country’s blasphemy law carries the death penalty for anyone found guilty of the offense. Pakistan’s government has long been under pressure to change the country’s blasphemy laws, a move Islamists strongly resist.