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Pakistan court hands down four death sentences to child killer

Pakistani policemen stand guard outside the checkpoint of Kot Lakhpat jail where Imran Ali, the suspect accused of raping and murdering seven-year-old Zainab Fatima Ameen is detained, in Lahore on February 17, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has sentenced a suspected serial killer to death for the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl, in a case that shocked the country and sparked major riots in his home district.

According to Ihtesham Qadir, prosecutor general of Punjab province, Imran Ali, 24, was handed four separate death sentences after being convicted of the rape and murder of Zainab Fatima Ameen, as well as terrorism charges.

“The court handed down death on four counts and life imprisonment to Imran Ali in the rape and murder of the little girl, Zainab,” Qadir said.

He also received life imprisonment and fines totaling 3.2 million rupees ($30,000) for additional charges of hiding his victim's body. Public prosecutor Abdul Rauf Wattoo said one million rupees of the fine would be given in compensation to Zainab's family.

A special anti-terrorism court passed its judgment in the case on Saturday.

The trial was held in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat prison under tight security. Journalists were stopped 500 meters from the prison and only relatives of the victim were allowed in court for the hearing.

Zainab's mother Nusrat Bibi demanded that the convict be executed in public.

"I want him to be hanged publicly at the place where he took Zainab," she told reporters after the verdict.

Pakistani civil society activists hold a vigil in tribute to the 7-year-old girl, who was raped and murdered in the city of Kasur in Punjab province, in Islamabad on January 11, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The serial killer faces further charges in the cases of at least seven other children attacked in the eastern city of Kasur, five of whom were murdered, in a spate of assaults. He has confessed to all eight attacks, including the death of Zainab.

The killer was detained on January 23 after the rape and murder of the girl in Kasur. Police say he has confessed to the killings and throwing her body in a garbage dump.

Zainab was taken from near her home in Kasur on January 4 while her parents were on a pilgrimage. Her uncle reported her missing the next day.

Zainab’s brutalized corpse was found in a trash pile about 100 meters from the family home five days after her disappearance.  

An autopsy confirmed that Zainab was strangled and sodomized. There were torture marks on her face and Zainab's tongue was crushed between her teeth.

The brutal sparked fury across Pakistan with two people killed in riots in Kasur on January 10.

Kasur was previously at the center of a child sexual abuse scandal in which a gang of over two dozen men was accused of blackmailing scores of children into making sex videos between 2009 and 2014.

Pakistani human rights activists carry placards and banners during a protest against the rape and murder of a child in Karachi on January 11, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

At least 280 children were sexually abused on camera by men who later blackmailed their families, threatening to leak the footage.

The abuse was uncovered in 2015 and multiple suspects were arrested.

According to Sahil, an aid group that works on child protection issues, there were 129 cases recorded in Kasur, including rape and murder from January to June 2017.

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