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Christian convicts’ appeals referred to SHC CJ following split judgment in murder case

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday referred the appeals of two Christian convicts to the chief justice of the high court for the appointment of a referee judge following the split judgment of a division bench in which one judge acquitted the appellants while the other upheld their conviction for killing a Muslim worshipper.

Waqas Masih and Arrey Masih were sentenced to life imprisonment by an anti-terrorism court that found them guilty of murdering a man, Nazar Iqbal, in the Zaman Town area on September 24, 2013.

According to the prosecution, the appellants along with other absconding co-accused were protesting against the Peshawar church bomb attack when they attacked Iqbal and other worshippers who were coming out of a mosque after offering prayers.

They allegedly attacked Iqbal sticks, rods and sharp weapons, which caused his death.

A counsel for the appellants submitted that the prosecution had failed to prove charges against them as the prosecution witnesses’ testimonies contradicted each other and there were improvements in their statements. The counsel requested

the SHC to set aside their conviction.

A deputy prosecutor general submitted that an innocent person who had left home to offer prayers was killed by the appellants and the offence was seen by eyewitnesses who testified that the appellants had tortured the victim to death. He requested the SHC to dismiss the appeals.

A division bench of the SHC comprising Justice Nazar Akbar and Justice Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan after hearing the arguments and perusal of the evidence issued a split judgment in which Justice Akbar set aside the conviction of the appellants while Justice Khan upheld the life imprisonment awarded to them by the trial court.

Justice Akbar observed that the prosecution had failed to prove its case against the appellants beyond any shadow of doubt and therefore the benefit of the doubt should be extended to the appellants. He acquitted them of the murder charge.

Justice Khan, however, observed that after the perusal of evidence, the testimonies of eyewitnesses having found corroboration with the medical evidence had also come in affirmative and mere on the basics of technicalities,

the conviction in the case of death could not be set aside.

Justice Khan observed that the appellants had committed the offence and beaten Iqbal to death. He upheld their life imprisonment awarded by the trial court.

The bench in view of the dissenting judgment directed the office to place the matter before the SHC chief justice for the appointment of a referee judge to decide the case in accordance with the law.

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