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Zainab killer to get death on four counts-one life term-seven-year jail term-Rs 3.2 million

18 February, 2018

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LAHORE: An anti-terrorism court on Saturday sentenced a suspected serial killer to death for the rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab in Kasur, a prosecutor said. The girl’s murder ignited nationwide protests over allegations of government inaction, and a media campaign led to his arrest after years of him being on the loose.

Police found Zainab Ansari’s body in a garbage dumpster in Kasur district in mid-January, four days after she was reported missing. Residents of the area have said the murder was the 12th such incident in a year. Police investigators said later that they had matched DNA from bodies of eight girls, including Zainab’s, with the convicted killer, Imran Ali, 24.

“The court handed down death on four counts, one life term, a seven-year jail term and Rs 3.2 million in fines to Imran Ali in the rape and murder of the little girl, Zainab,” government prosecutor Ehtisham Qadir Shah said. He said Imran will be tried for rest of the cases later.

The verdict was announced at Lahore’s Central Jail in Kot Lakhpat on Saturday.

The four death penalties were for kidnapping, raping and murdering Zainab, and for committing an act of terrorism punishable under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The life sentence, along with a Rs 1 million fine, was handed to Imran Ali for committing an ‘unnatural act’. Another seven-year jail sentence and Rs 1 million fine were imposed for concealing the body in a trash heap. Additionally, Rs 1 million from the penalties imposed will be paid to the victim’s heirs, the judge ruled.

Zainab’s mother, Nusrat Bibi, demanded that the execution of the death penalties be carried out in public. “I want him to be hanged publicly at the place where he took Zainab,” she told reporters after the verdict.

The convict faces further charges in the cases of at least seven other children he attacked – five of whom were murdered – in a spate of assaults that had stoked fears a serial child killer was on the loose.

He has confessed to all eight attacks, including the death of Zainab.

Prosecutor General Ehtesham Qadir, who spoke to media after the sentencing, said the accused had been given ample chance to defend himself but he chose to confess his crimes despite being told clearly that any information he divulged would be used against him. “When he was read the charges, we asked the court to let Imran Ali deliberate the matter for 40 minutes,” the prosecutor said. “The convict was then told that anything he says will be used against him in court, after which he confessed. After this, we also proved the voluntariness of the convict in court and then proceeded to trial.”

Nonetheless, the prosecution chose to submit all its evidence to court so that the case remained airtight. The prosecutor also said this was the first case to examine scientific evidence in a case of this nature.

The convict now has 15 days to challenge the verdict and file an appeal.

Zainab’s father, Haji Amin, had arrived in Kot Lakhpat to witness the verdict early on Saturday morning. Security had been increased in and around the central jail and the movement of everyone going in and out of the jail was monitored.

Zainab’s rape and murder last month had sparked outrage and protests across the country after the seven-year-old, who went missing on January 4, was found dead in a trash heap in Kasur on Jan 9.

Her case was the twelfth such incident to occur within a 10-kilometre radius in the city over a 12-month period.

The heinous nature of the crime had seen immediate riots break out in Kasur – in which two people were killed – while #JusticeforZainab became a rallying cry for an end to violence against children.

The Punjab government had declared the arrest of prime suspect Imran Ali on January 23.

The trial in the case was concluded on Thursday, but ATC-I Judge Sajjad Ahmad reserved his verdict. By then, the cross examination of all prosecution witnesses had been completed by state counsel Muhammad Sultan, who was appointed by the trial court to represent the suspect. The accused had initially denied guilt when the charges were framed against him and had opted to contest the trial. However, he made a confession soon after and was indicted on Feb 12. On Feb 14, the ATC recorded his complete statement.

Advocate Mehar Shakeel Multani, private counsel for the suspect, had withdrawn his power of attorney after the suspect’s confession before the trial court. The lawyer claimed his conscience did not allow him to defend a killer.

The prosecution had presented at least 56 witnesses against the suspect in addition to forensic evidence, including DNA and polygraph tests.

The trial had been wrapped up within four days, even though the Lahore High Court had given seven days for its completion.

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