An anti-terrorism court, finding Imran Ali — the man accused of raping and murdering six-year-old Zainab Amin in Kasur last month — guilty of the charges brought against him, on Saturday handed him four counts of the death penalty, one life term, a 7-year jail term and Rs4.1 million in fines.
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 (ATA).
One life sentence, along with a Rs1 million fine, was handed to Ali for committing an "unnatural act". Two death sentences, accompanied by Rs1 million fine each, were imposed on him under ATA and Pakistan Penal Code. A 7-year jail sentence and Rs100,000 fine was further awarded for concealing the body in a trash heap.
Additionally, Rs1 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.
Ali 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, AFP reported.
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 Muhammad 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 six-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, Imran Ali.
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 Ali'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.
The Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, under which Ali was also tried, also requires the trial court to proceed on a day-to-day basis and decide the case within seven working days.
A special prosecution team headed by Abdul Rauf Wattoo prosecuted the suspect during the trial. Prosecutor General of Punjab Ehtisham Qadir Shah monitored the trial proceedings on the instructions of the Supreme Court, which had separately taken suo motu notice of the Zainab case.
Talking to Dawn, the prosecutor general (PG) had said all the requisites of justice and fairness had been strictly observed during the trial proceedings.
He had said the private counsel for the suspect had cross-examined at least 22 prosecution witnesses before he withdrew his power of attorney.
Later, the state counsel appointed by the court completed the cross-examination of the remaining witnesses, he had added.
Explaining the reasons for conducting the trial inside the jail, the PG had said it was done for the suspect’s protection. He said the law also permitted such precautions for such cases.
Senior lawyer Azam Nazir Tarar, who has an expertise in criminal law, had earlier commented that there had been reservations about the jail-trial and the in-camera proceedings.
However, he had said, shortcomings in the trial, if any, could be removed in an appeal before the high court. The appeal would be considered as a continuation of the trial, he added.
Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect that the fines imposed on Imran Ali amount to a total of Rs4.1 million.