LAHORE: An anti-terrorism court on Saturday awa­rd­ed death sentence to two convicts — Abid Ali Malhi and Shafqat Ali alias Bagga — in the motorway gang-rape case under Section 376 (ii) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

The guilty verdict annou­n­ced by Judge Arshad Huss­ain Bhutta in a hearing held inside the Camp Jail also ca­r­ried life imprisonment for each convict under Sect­ion 365-A of the PPC (kidnapping for extorting property, valuable security). Each of the convicts was also handed down 14-year rigorous imprisonment, with a fine of Rs200,000 under Sec­tion 392 (robbery), and five-year rigorous imprisonment under Sect­ion 440 (mischief committed after preparation made for causing death or hurt), with a fine of Rs50,000.

The judge further imposed daman (compensation) of Rs50,000 on two counts on each of the convicts under sections 337 F1 and L2 to be paid to the rape survivor.

Earlier, the accused were produced in the court barefooted to hear the verdict, where the jail superintendent and the prosecution team was also present. The judge handed over their custody to the jail superintendent for their execution after the confirmation of death penalty by the Lahore High Court.

DIG investigation Shariq Jamal Khan congratulated the prosecution team on the conviction of the accused, because of submission of a comprehensive challan (investigation report) by the police in the case.

The government had constituted a special prosecution team, comprising Waqar Abid, Hafiz Asghar and Abdul Jabbar, for the case that was highlighted by the local and international media.

The trial court resumed the formal proceedings on Feb 22, 2021 after the police submitted the challan with a considerable delay. The investigation officer was issued a show cause notice by the court for the delay.

The rape survivor had identified the convicts during the investigation and before the trial court as well.

The prosecution had also produced the children of the rape survivor for recording their statements. However, the court after introductory inquiries declared them incompetent witnesses for being minors.

As per the police report, the accused had confessed to have committed the crime during the investigation. However, they denied the allegations before the court and opted for contesting the trial.

Gujjarpura police had registered the FIR on Sept 9, 2020 under sections 365-A, 392, 376 (ii), 427, 201, 34, 337-L2, 337-F1 of the PPC and Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.

Initially, the police had arrested Shafqat, while prime suspect Malhi was held after over a month of the incident.

The then capital city police officer of Lahore Umar Sheikh had faced criticism from public and the media for his insensitive statement about the gang-rape survivor in which he criticised her for not checking the car fuel before taking the motorway and travelling late in the night on the less-frequented highway.

He had to tender public apology amid demand for his removal from the post for blaming the victim. However, Mr Sheikh remained in the office till his transfer on Jan 1, 2021.

The convicts had sexually assaulted a French woman of Pakistan-origin in front of her three children after dragging her out of her car that ran short of fuel and stopped during her late night travel on Sialkot-Lahore Motorway.

The prosecution presented 53 witnesses, including the rape survivor, the complainant of the FIR and the person who reported the incident on police emergency helpline. The scientific evidence included the DNA reports and fingerprints of the suspects.

The police had recovered a pistol and a club, used in the crime, from the convicts, besides their mobile phones.

The investigation report said the police traced the suspects with the help of record of their DNA samples, maintained by the Punjab Forensic Science Agency, which matched with the blood stains found on the crime scene.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2021

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