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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday upheld the verdict of an anti-terrorism court in the rape and murder case of seven-year-old Zainab of Kasur, and dismissed Imran Ali’s appeal against his death sentence.

A division bench comprising Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan and Justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhry dismissed the appeal after hearing arguments from the prosecution and the defence counsel.

At the outset of the hearing, Advocate Asad Jamal, who represented the convict pro bono, asked the bench to give him more time to prepare his arguments. However, the bench turned down his request and asked the counsel to resume his arguments, stating that otherwise the convict would be assigned state counsel.

Also read: How authorities tracked down suspect in Zainab’s case

Advocate Jamal then questioned the admissibility of the DNA findings which the trial court had relied on when handing down the conviction. He said there was a misconception that the DNA test was foolproof evidence, and added that the court could not blindly rely on that evidence.

Imran Ali pleaded he should be treated with leniency because by confessing to his crime he had saved court’s time

He further said that a statement of the laboratory that had conducted the DNA analysis was not available on record. He also challenged the evidence of CCTV footage presented by the prosecution against the convict, saying that the prosecution had itself admitted that the man shown in the footage was only similar to the convict. He also pointed out what he described as several shortcomings in the cross-examination of witnesses.

Besides questioning the fairness of the trial, the counsel also assailed the jurisdiction of an anti-terrorism court to hold trial in such a case. The counsel reiterated his request for adjournment but the bench refused to defer proceedings and sought arguments from the prosecution.

Additional Prosecutor General Abdul Samad stated that the trial court had awarded punishment in the light of the convict’s confession, DNA analysis and witnesses who had testified against him.

After hearing the arguments from both sides, the bench dismissed the appeal and upheld the conviction handed down by the trial court. The convict can further appeal against the high court’s decision before the Supreme Court.

Talking to journalists, Haji Amin Ansari, the victim’s father, said he was satisfied with the high court’s decision. He said that justice had been done in this case.

In his jail-appeal, Imran Ali had pleaded that he had confessed to the crime and saved the precious time of the trial court. He said that courts in developed countries treated criminals who confessed to their crimes with leniency. However, he added, the trial court had not shown leniency in his case despite his confession.

Imran Ali was sentenced to death by the anti-terrorism court on Feb 17, on four counts following a four-day jail trial conducted in the central jail. The convict was also sentenced to life imprisonment and a seven-year jail term in addition to the death penalty.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2018