Pakistani Punjab governor killer sentenced to death

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 01, 2011 2:43 AM
Pakistani Punjab governor killer sentenced to death

By Augustine Anthony

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (Reuters) - A Pakistani court sentenced to death on Saturday the killer of the governor of Pakistan's largest province, a defense lawyer said.

"He has been given the death sentence," Shuja-ur-Rehman told Reuters.

The court handed down two death sentences for murder and terrorism to Mumtaz Qadri, who has seven days to file an appeal, state television reported.

Qadri believed he was enforcing divine law by murdering a blasphemer when he killed Punjab Governor Salman Taseer on January 4.

Qadri, one of the governor's bodyguards, is viewed as a hero by many Pakistanis, highlighting how deeply religious extremism has penetrated mainstream Pakistani society.

Taseer was an outspoken critic of Pakistan's blasphemy law, which mandates the death penalty and is often used in poor, rural areas to settle personal scores.

He had championed the cause of a Christian woman sentenced to death in a blasphemy case, which arose out of a local dispute. Taseer had said the law was being misused and should be reformed.

Outside the jail, where the hearing was held for security reasons, several hundred supporters of Qadri blocked the road and chanted slogans denouncing the sentence.

"By punishing one Mumtaz Qadri, you will produce a thousand Mumtaz Qadris!" one man shouted through a megaphone.

Others recited verses from the Koran, as members of the hardline Sunni Tehreek religious group waved their party's green and yellow flags.

One Qadri supporter, wiping tears from his face, said: "We don't accept this. We don't accept this."

Additional police were deployed at the jail gate to prevent any possible break-in. After Qadri was sentenced, the judge left through the back door.

(Writing by Qasim Nauman; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Ron Popeski)