An anti-terrorism court here has reserved its verdict in the Mashal Khan lynching case after prosecution and defence sides concluded their arguments in the case.

ATC Judge Fazal-i-Subhan Khan set February 7 for the pronouncement of the verdict.

Nearly 50 prosecution witnesses testified against the suspects during the course of the hearing conducted inside Haripur Central Jail.

Mashal, 23, a student at Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU) in Mardan, was beaten and shot to death on April 13 by an unruly mob instigated by rumours that he had committed blasphemy by posting sacrilegious content online.

On Sept 19, the court had indicted 66 suspects on murder and terrorism-related charges.

A Joint Investigation Team (JIT), formed to probe Mashal Khan’s lynching incident at AWKU in its report made startling revelations that the cold-blooded murder of 23-year-old journalism student was carried out under a well-planned conspiracy while ruling out the victim’s involvement in publishing blasphemous content in June.

Pakhtun Student Federation’s president and an employee of the Abdul Wali Khan University had plotted to eliminate Mashal Khan for his activism at AWKU a month before the lynching incident as his active participation and ideas were becoming a threat for the student federation to sustain its position, revealed the JIT report.

According to probing team’s report, nothing was found to substantiate the blasphemy charges against the slain student and his two other companions. “A group of people instigated the mob against him by accusing him of committing blasphemy”, the JIT report further revealed.

It said the lynching victim was outspoken about irregularities committed by the university administration, more particularly the appointments of incompetent and unqualified persons on political basis, adding that the culture of drugs and bringing weapons were a norm at the university.

The JIT unveiled that various employees of the varsity were holding criminal record, thus they should be subjected to an investigation. It added that out of 57 culprits, 54 had been behind bars while the rest are still on the run.