An Indian court on Wednesday acquitted six men of the killing of a 55-year-old Muslim dairy farmer, citing lack of evidence, raising questions over the prosecution’s failure to make its case despite videos of a crowd beating him in the street.
The 2017 attack on Pehlu Khan and his two sons in the western state of Rajasthan by a suspected mob of cow vigilantes caused public outrage and demands for swift action.
Videos shot on mobile phones showed Khan begging for mercy as the crowd set upon him after stopping his truck with cows in the back. He died but his sons survived.
In Hindu-majority India, many consider cows sacred and killing the animal is outlawed in most states.
Since 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, Muslim organizations have complained about Muslims coming under attack amid a resurgence in right-wing Hindu activism.
Hukum Singh Sharma, a defense lawyer, said the court in the town of Alwar had freed the six accused because the prosecution could not link them to the attack on Khan.
“Police had picked up innocent people and all the six accused were framed because of political reasons,” Singh said.
The court did not accept the video evidence, Yogendra Singh, the prosecution lawyer, told NDTV news channel.
Khan had told the crowd he was bringing the cows from a cattle fair, but they had screamed that he was planning to slaughter the cattle for beef.
Some prominent Indians took to Twitter to vent their anger over the acquittal.