Pakistan suspends sentences in blasphemy case pending appeal

FILE - In this April 22, 2017 file photo, members of a Pakistani civil society group hold posters showing university student Mohammad Mashal Khan during a demonstration against his killing, in Karachi, Pakistan. On Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, a Pakistani lawyer said an appellate court has suspended the three-year jail terms handed down to 25 suspects over the lynching of Khan in the northwestern city of Mardan in April 2016 over unfounded rumors that he had shared blasphemous content on social media. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan, File)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — An appellate court in Pakistan on Tuesday suspended the three-year jail terms handed down to 25 suspects over the lynching of a university student who was falsely accused of blasphemy, a lawyer said.

Mohammad Mashal Khan, 23, was killed by a mob on his university campus in Mardan in April 2016 over unfounded rumors that he had shared blasphemous content on social media. Blasphemy against Islam is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere allegation can spark mob violence.

Defense lawyer Syed Akhtar said he convinced the court to suspend his clients' sentences and release them on bail until their appeals are heard.

An anti-terrorism court earlier this month sentenced one man to death and handed life sentences to five others in the case. Those sentences are unchanged.

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