An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Lahore on Monday charged a man with raping and murdering six-year-old Zainab Amin in a case that enraged the country and sparked riots in his home district of Kasur last month.
Imran Ali, 24, pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting and murdering Zainab, said defence lawyer Mehr Shakeel Multani.
“The police have levelled baseless and false allegations against my client,” Multani told AFP.
The hearing was held in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail for security reasons. Witnesses will be called on Tuesday.
Zainab’s rape and murder last month had sparked outrage across the country after the six-year-old, who went missing on January 4, was found dead in a trash heap in Kasur on Jan 9. Her case is the 12th such incident to occur within a 10 kilometre radius in the city over the past year.
Police had confirmed on Jan 13 that the results of DNA testing of samples collected from the crime scenes pointed towards the involvement of one culprit in at least seven similar cases in the district. The Punjab government had declared the arrest of Imran, the prime suspect, on January 23.
The killing sparked calls for the public execution of Imran after officials said his DNA had been recovered from the scene of the crime and matched samples from similar cases.
According to the victim’s father Ameen Ansari, Imran — who lived nearby — had taken part in the initial protests that erupted after Zainab’s body was discovered.