A man in central China was sentenced to death Friday for keeping six women as sex slaves in a cellar for months and killing two of them, a case that shook the Asian nation last year.

A court in Luoyang, a city in the central province of Henan, convicted Li Hao, 35, of rape, murder, organized prostitution, illegal detention and distribution of pornography.

The court also sentenced one of the captives to three years in prison and released two others on bail on grounds that they helped Li commit the murders, though the fact that they might have done so under threat from their captor was considered an extenuating circumstance by the judges.

Li, a local government official, kept the women locked up in two rooms measuring 2 sq. meters (21 sq. feet) each that he himself had dug under a cellar near his home, where he raped them repeatedly and forced them to perform in pornographic videos that he then aired on the Internet, until his arrest in September 2011.

The women were kidnapped by Li from night spots and karaoke clubs - the first of them spent 21 months in captivity, the last was locked up for two months.

In order to terrify them, the accused killed two of the women who stood up to him and buried their bodies in a shallow grave in the same cellar.

The other captives were fed just once every other day to weaken them physically, and were not allowed outside the cellar except to work as prostitutes and subsequently hand over the money to the man now condemned to death.

During one such temporary release, however, one of the victims, 24, managed to escape and ran to the police.

Li has a 1-year-old son with his wife, who had no idea about his hideous practices until he was arrested, and needed psychological help after learning the truth. EFE