Lahore: Two men convicted in Pakistan's biggest child sex abuse scandal in a village bordering India have been sentenced to life imprisonment by an anti-terrorism court, eight months after the scandal broke out and forced the government to pass a law to criminalise such heinous crimes.
Haseem Aamir and Faizan Majeed have also been fined Rs 300,000 each by the court here yesterday. The massive scandal surfaced in August 2015 in Punjab province's Ganda Singh village, bordering India. It was the biggest scandal of such nature in Pakistan's history.
At least 280 children were filmed being sexually abused by a gang of over 25 criminals who used the hundreds of videos to blackmail and extort money from their parents by threatening to release the videos online. More than 30 FIRs were registered against the gang.
Still, more cases relating to the scandal are pending in the court. Adnan Liaqat, counsel for Haseem and Majeed, said the ATC decision would be challenged in the Lahore High Court.
"The trial court awarded the punishment on the solitary statement of an alleged victim." The five-member joint investigation team (JIT) constituted to probe the scandal has confirmed the two accused sodomised 19 minors.
It investigated 31 FIRs, interrogated 400 people, examined 47 video clips and 72 photographs in light of the photogrammetric tests. It, however, did not find any evidence of the accused being involved in the extortion or posting of the videos and pictures on the Internet for monetary gains.
The JIT presented a chargesheet against a total of 17 suspects. Ten of them were charged with sodomy and seven with other offenses, like criminal intimidation and fraud. The team recommended dropping eight cases which were fake.
In March, the Senate passed a bill criminalising sexual assault against minors, child pornography and trafficking for the first time. Previously only the acts of rape and sodomy were punishable by law. Under the revised legislation sexual assaults are punishable by up to seven years in prison. It is however awaiting ratification by the president.