ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An antiterrorism court in Pakistan on Saturday sentenced to death a 24-year-old man for the murder and rape of a girl, 7, in a case that caused nationwide outrage and put a spotlight on child sexual abuse in the country.
The killer, Imran Ali, was also sentenced to life imprisonment on a count of sodomy and a large fine was imposed for desecrating the dead body of the girl, Zainab Amin.
During the four-day trial, Mr. Ali also confessed to raping a total of nine girls, seven of whom, including Zainab, he killed over the last 18 months, according to Ehtesham Qadir, the prosecutor general of Punjab Province.
Zainab went missing on Jan. 4 after leaving her house to take Quran lessons at her aunt’s home in Kasur, a city about 30 miles south of Lahore. Her body was found in a garbage heap near her home after five days.
The incident shocked the whole country, and angry protesters clashed with police in Kasur, leading to two deaths. People across Pakistan expressed dismay over the delayed response by the police to trace the killer, and pressure mounted on the provincial government to bring the perpetrator to justice.
Mr. Ali, a part-time construction worker and a neighbor of Zainab, was caught on Jan. 23 after a large manhunt that resulted in hundreds of people undergoing DNA tests, the authorities said.
The authorities said Mr. Ali had managed to escape suspicion for his crimes because of his pious demeanor; he used to recite Naat, a form of religious poetry, at religious functions.
During the trial, held at a prison in Lahore, the provincial capital, 56 witnesses testified. The prosecution team presented DNA evidence, the results of a polygraph test and video footage in support of its case.
Meher Shakeel Multani, the first lawyer representing Mr. Ali, refused to defend him midway through the trial, saying his conscience did not allow him to continue any further after hearing the confession and accounts of witnesses. The government then provided Mr. Ali with another lawyer.
After the verdict, Nusrat Ansari, Zainab’s mother, demanded a public execution of her daughter’s killer. “The killer should be hanged at the same spot where he killed Zainab,” Ms. Ansari was quoted as saying by local news media.
Mr. Ali has a right to appeal the sentence within 15 days, the prosecutor said.
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