A Pakistani court has sentenced a serial killer to death after finding him guilty of killing eight children, including a girl, 7, whose rape and murder drew nationwide condemnation.
The court announced its decision on Saturday in the presence of Mohammad Imran, 24, who had pleaded guilty during the five-day trial, public prosecutor Ehtesham Qadir said outside a high-security prison in the eastern city of Lahore, where the trial was held.
Imran was arrested in January, two weeks after he raped and killed Zainab Ansari and threw her body on to a rubbish dump in the city of Kasur. Angered by the murder, residents attacked a police station, sparking clashes in which two people were killed.
Zainab disappeared in the first week of January while walking to a nearby home for Quranic studies.
Her parents were on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia at the time and she was left with relatives. They quickly returned home but by that time their daughter's body had been found and preparations for her funeral and burial were under way amid tight security.
Since Zainab's killer left no clue, police and investigators obtained DNA samples from hundreds of suspects, and Imran's sample matched, leading to his arrest.
Imran confessed to the crime and said he lured the girl by telling her that her parents had come back and that she should go with him to meet them.
Mr Qadir said Imran had the right to appeal but he may not challenge the verdict as he confessed to his crimes during the trial. "Imran even today told the court that he killed the eight girls," he said.
He did not say how the man's execution would be carried out, but many Pakistanis have demanded he be publicly hanged. The horror of Zainab's killing in January was brought home for Pakistanis by a photo of her that went viral on social media, showing the smiling girl in her favourite bright pink coat, with a pink barrette holding back her hair.
TV channels broadcast the photo alongside pictures of her body, found on January 9.
Shortly after Imran's conviction, Zainab's parents expressed their satisfaction, saying they received justice. However, they said Imran should be hanged in a public place so that others learn a lesson from his fate.
Imran "should be stoned to death", her mother, Nusrat Ansari, said.
Zainab's father, Mohammed Amin Ansari, was present when the court announced the decision. He thanked the judiciary, government and investigators for giving him speedy justice. He also called for a public execution.
"My daughter has gone, she will not come back, but I want to save daughters of other people," he said.
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