A court in Pakistan has sentenced two men to death for the gang rape of a woman last year on the side of a highway in the eastern city of Lahore, an attack that triggered nationwide protests and calls for tougher laws.
The men, Abid Malhi and Shafqat Ali, were convicted of gang rape, kidnapping, robbery, and terrorism offenses, according a statement issued by Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta.
The judge also sentenced the men to 14 years in prison, which must be served before any executions can take place, prosecutor Hafiz Asghar said.
The woman was raped at the side of a highway after her car ran out of fuel.
According to the prosecution, she was inside the locked car with her two children when Malhi and Ali broke a window, dragged her outside, and raped her at gunpoint in front of the children. The men also stole money, jewelry, and bank cards before fleeing.
They were tracked down with the help of mobile phone data, Asghar said. The woman identified the two men during judicial proceedings, and DNA samples taken from the crime scene matched theirs, he said, adding that Ali confessed to the crime before a magistrate.
Malhi and Ali did not hire lawyers, and their state-appointed attorneys were not available for comment following the verdict, according to the Associated Press.
The crime drew widespread condemnation in Pakistan, including street protests calling for legal reforms. Human rights activists also have urged the government to introduce harsh new penalties for rapists.
Victims of sex crimes find it hard to get justice in conservative Pakistan, where such crimes carry social stigma. Faulty investigations and flawed laws also mean that rape cases often drag on for years and make it difficult for victims to come forward.
Pakistan’s president in December issued a new law requiring the establishment of special courts to speedily conclude trials in rape cases.
The new law requires courts to conclude the trials within four months. It also creates a nationwide registry of rape offenders and prohibits the identification of rape victims.