A Pakistani anti-terrorism judge has given the death sentence to the mastermind of a 2010 suicide attack on a Sufi shrine in Punjab province despite facing death threats from the Taliban during the trial.
Judge Asif Majeed of the anti-terrorism court in Dera Ghazi Khan, 400 km from Lahore, yesterday awarded 52 death sentences – one for each of the 52 victims of the attack – to Behram Khan alias Sufi Baba.
Khan was convicted of masterminding the attack on Hazrat Sakhi Sarwar shrine in April 2010.
The judge also awarded 52 counts of life imprisonment to Omar Fidai, a teenage would-be suicide bomber who was captured during the attack.
Fidai, who was aged about 14 at the time of the attack, was seriously injured by an explosion while his colleague carried out the attack by detonating his suicide vest.
Four other men accused of involvement in the attack were acquitted for lack of evidence.
A large number of people were present in the shrine when a blast ripped through it on April 3, 2010. Fifty-two people were killed and over 150 were injured in the attack.
Judge Majeed faced constant death threats from the Taliban during the 22-month trial, media reports said.
The first three hearings were held at the anti-terrorism court in Dera Ghazi Khan.
After the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan threatened the judge, the hearings were moved to the Central Jail. The verdict was announced at the prison amidst high security.
During his interrogation, Fidai told investigators that 350 children were being trained by the Taliban to be suicide bombers.
Behram Khan was arrested after a shootout with security forces in the restive Bajaur tribal region in April 2011.
Fidai and Khan are currently being held at the Central Jail in Dera Ghazi Khan, and media reports said prison officials and prosecutors involved in the case had received multiple death threats and letters from the Taliban.
Security at the prison has been increased since the judge announced the verdict. PTI MZ RHL ZH 03071403 NNNN