Pakistan Today (Lahore)

Convict in motorway rape case challenges death sentence

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Abid Malhi, one of the two convicts in the notorious motorway gang rape case, filed an appeal with the Lahore High Court (LHC) against the death sentence handed to him by an anti-terrorism court. In March, Malhi and Shafqat Hussain were sentenced to death for gang-raping the woman on the side of the motorway just outside Lahore in September last, an attack that triggered nationwide protests and calls for tougher laws. The men were convicted of gang rape, kidnapping, robbery and terrorism offences, according to a written order released by Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta. 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. Malhi’s appeal is filed under Section 25 of the Anti-terrorism Act, 1997. At the outset of the hearing, Justice Chauhdry Abdul Aziz served notices on the plaintiff and the government, summoning responses from them. Judge Bhutta, on the other hand, sent a reference to the high court to confirm the death sentence awarded to the two. To support the verdict, Punjab Deputy Prosecutor General Muhammad Arshad Farooqi presented the record of the perpetrato­rs. The state has also filed an appeal in the case, maintainin­g the punishment handed to the convict is in accordance with the law. “The court has overseen all the investigat­ions and recorded statements from the complainan­t, witnesses, and the suspects,” it said. “The convicts have failed to provide substantia­l evidence against the accusation­s. It is therefore requested by the court to approve the decision of the anti-terrorism court,” it added. Fewer than 3 percent of sexual assault or rape cases result in a conviction in Pakistan, according to the Karachibas­ed group War Against Rape. In December, the government introduced a new rape law, creating create special courts in a bid to speed up prosecutio­ns and setting up a national sex offender registry.

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