Pakistani activists hold up signs as they protest against the brutal rape and murder of Zainab Ansari in Pakistan. Photo: AFP

Imran Ali has been given four death sentences in a  court in Pakistan for raping and murdering a six-year-old girl last month. The body of Zainab Ansari was found on a rubbish dump in Kasur, a city in the Punjab region, south of Lahore, on Jan. 9.

Her murder triggered outrage across the country, including riots against alleged police incompetence in which two protesters died.

Zainab’s father was in court to hear the verdict, amid heavy security.

Reports revealed that Ali, 24, who is believed to be a ‘serial child killer’, had been linked by police to the earlier murders and assaults of girls in the area.

In one of the highest-profile court cases in Pakistan, dozens of witnesses testified against Ali during the trial. Forensic evidence, including DNA and polygraph tests, was also presented.

Earlier, his lawyer had withdrawn from the case after Ali had confessed to the crime, it was reported.

Zainab Ansari was raped and murdered. Photo: AFP

Ali was handed death sentences for kidnapping, rape, murder and an act of terrorism, as well as a life sentence for sodomy.

He now has 15 days to appeal against the verdict, according to reports on the Dawn News website.

Law enforcement agencies came under mounting pressure to find the killer of Zainab and other children in the region.

Her family even claimed that the police refused to take action during the days she was reported missing and her body was found. Relatives also managed to recover CCTV footage of her last movements, according to the BBC.

The video showed a girl being led away by a man and was widely circulated on social media.

Ali was arrested by police on Jan. 23. But the case, the latest in a string of sexual assaults and murders of girls in the region, sparked an international outcry against gender-based violence.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now.