An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan gave four death sentences to a man it found guilty of raping and murdering a six-year old girl.
The victim, Zainab Fatima, was attacked last month in her native eastern city of Kasur in Punjab province. The news of the incident shocked the nation, sparking demands to swiftly bring the killer to justice.
A major manhunt in and around the city and DNA tests enabled police to arrest the man, identified as 24-year-old Imran Ali, who later confessed to his crime. He was tried in the special speedy court at a high-security prison in the provincial capital of Lahore and media was not allowed to attend the proceedings.
Police found Zainab’s body in a city garbage dumpster four days after she was reported missing.
Provincial prosecutor general Ehtisham Qadir Shah told reporters outside the court Saturday that Ali was given four death sentences after being convicted of rape, murder and terrorism charges.
Shah explained that the convict can appeal the sentence in 15 days, though he predicted no relief, citing “irrefutable” evidence police have gathered against Ali, including his personal confession.
“This serial killer has raped a total of nine young girls [including Zainab]. Two of them are alive and seven have been murdered. The trials in other cases are expected to be concluded in about 15 days,” the prosecutor general said.
Investigators say they have matched DNA from other girls' bodies with Ali.
The girl’s mother, Nusrat Bibi, spoke to reporters shortly after the verdict was announced, and she repeated her demand for the death penalty in public.
“I want him to be hanged publicly at the place where he took Zainab. He has not murdered just one young girl. He has killed many more and his public execution will deter others from committing such acts,” Bibi said.
Prosecutor General Shah did not rule out the possibility of a public execution as has been requested by the victim's family.
“We are considering [it]. Since he [the convict] has been tried and charged under the special law of Anti-Terrorism Act, in which the government can think over it, the mode and manner [for carrying out the death penalty]," he said.
Shortly after the news of Zainab's gruesome murder surfaced, protesters took to the streets in Kasur, where demonstrators stormed police stations and set fire to homes of local politicians for not taking action, despite repeated incidents of child rape and murder cases in the city.
Relatives have reported more than a dozen cases of rape and murder in and around Kasur in less than two years, but no serious action had been taken until Zainab's case surfaced.