LAHORE - An anti-terrorism court Saturday acquitted 20 people involved in lynching a Christian couple four years ago in Kot Radha Kishan, giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Anti-Terrorism Court-11 Judge Ijazul Hassan announced the verdict after concluding the trial of the accused.

Those acquitted are Javed, Abid, Sabir, Muhammad Sharif, Sarfaraz, Sultan, Aftab, Muhammad Ashraf, Abid Hassan, Asif, Awais, Faryad, Babar Ali, Islamuddin, Zulfiqar Ali and Arshad Ali.

An angry mob of about 1,000 people attacked Christian couple, Shahzad and Shama, and burnt them alive at a brick-kiln, where they worked, for their alleged role in desecrating the holy Quran in Kot Radha Kishan—a town some 48 kilometres from Lahore.

In November, 2016, an anti-terrorism court sentenced to death five men, Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kamboh, Muhammad Hanif, Hafiz Ishtiaq and Irfan Shakoor, after they were found guilty of lynching the Christian couple. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 200,000 on them.

Moreover, the ATC imprisoned eight other accused, Muhammad Haris, Muhammad Muneer, Muhammad Hussain, Noorul Hasan, Muhammad Arsalan, Muhammad Ramzan, Irfan and Hafiz Shahid, for two years.

“The police have written in their report that these men were not involved in lynching the Christian couple,” said a prosecutor who wished not to be named. “This is the reason that they have been acquitted,” he further stated.

Kot Radha Kishan police arrested the acquitted men from the spot, but, as per findings of the investigation, they had no role in lynching and torturing the Christian couple. According to the police, the mob tortured the couple before throwing them into the kiln’s furnace. The mob also held five policemen hostage for trying to rescue the couple. They also manhandled some media men and snatched their cameras from them.

Local police booked 660 villagers and nominated 60 of them in the FIR lodged by Sub-Inspector Muhammad Ali. The contents of the FIR said the couple was thrashed and dragged by the mob to the furnace of the kiln (where they were working) and were thrown into it.