LAHORE, PAKISTAN (AFP) - A Pakistan court on Monday (Feb 12) charged a man with raping and murdering a young girl in a case that enraged the country and sparked major riots in his home district.
Imran Ali, 24, pleaded not guilty to the offences against six-year-old Zainab Fatima Ameen in the Punjab city of Kasur last month, said defence lawyer Mehr Shakeel Multani.
"The police have levelled baseless and false allegations against my client," Mr Multani told AFP.
The hearing was held in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat prison for security reasons. Witnesses will be called on Tuesday.
Zainab's murder last month sparked outrage across Pakistan, with riots erupting in Kasur as thousands swarmed police stations and set fire to politicians' homes, while Pakistanis took to social media demanding action.
The killing sparked calls for the public execution of Ali after officials said his DNA had been recovered from the scene of the crime and matched samples from similar cases.
At least four other cases of rape and murder have been recorded in the Kasur area in the past two years, but it is not yet clear if they are linked.
According to the victim's father Ameen Ansari, Ali - who lived nearby - had taken part in the initial protests that erupted after Zainab's body was discovered.