SIALKOT: Police on Monday claimed to have arrested 18 more main suspects involved in the lynching of 49-year-old Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara in Sialkot.
A mob comprising hundreds of protesters, including the employees of the factory Kumara was the manager of, had tortured him to death on December 3 and later burnt his body.
A first information report was registered against 900 workers of Rajco Industries on the application of Uggoki Station House Officer Armaghan Maqt under sections 302, 297, 201, 427, 431, 157, 149 of the Pakistan Penal Code and 7 and 11WW of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
With Monday’s arrests, the total number of suspects in custody has risen to 52, Sialkot police spokesperson Khurram Shehzad told Dawn.com.
The 18 suspects were later produced before a special anti-terrorism court in Gujranwala, which remanded them in police custody for 15 days. The judge directed police to present the suspects again on December 28.
“Thirty-four primary suspects are already in remand with police. More than 100 individuals are under investigation,” the spokesperson said.
The incident saw widespread outrage and condemnation across Pakistan with politicians, scholars and civil society members calling for swift punishment to be meted out to the perpetrators.
Reacting to the “horrific vigilante attack”, Prime Minister Imran Khan termed it a day of shame for Pakistan. “I am overseeing the investigations & let there be no mistake all those responsible will be punished with full severity of the law. Arrests are in progress,” he had tweeted.
Kumara’s remains were repatriated to Sri Lanka on Dec 6 and a condolence reference was held for him a day later at the Prime Minister’s House.
The political and military leadership subsequently decided the government would pursue a “comprehensive strategy” to stamp out religious extremism and vigilantism in the incident’s wake.
Trial in prison
The judicial trial of suspects arrested for lynching Sri Lankan man will be held in jail, Pakistan’s Punjab government said on Saturday.
The decision to hold the trial inside the prison was reached after a meeting of the prosecution team and the Punjab government, newspaper Express Tribune reported.
The prosecution had reportedly asked the jail administration to make the necessary arrangements to conduct the trial.
So far, the police have arrested 131 men, of whom over 30 have been declared prime suspects. They were identified via CCTV footage and mobile data.
Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara was tortured to death, and then set on fire by a mob of more than 800 people, mostly belonging to radical Islamist party the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), allegedly over blasphemy accusations in the Wazirabad neighbourhood in Sialkot.
According to reports, Kumara, who worked as a manager at a factory, tore up a poster of the TLP in which Quranic verses were inscribed and threw it in the dustbin.
“The poster of the Islamist party was pasted on the wall adjoining the office of Kumara. A couple of factory workers saw him removing the poster and spread the word in the factory,” a Pakistan Punjab police official said.