Pakistan: Bid to free Taseer’s killer rejected

Petition demanding Qadri`s release was dismissed after preliminary hearing.

Islamabad: A Pakistani court on Thursday rejected a challenge to the detention of a bodyguard who confessed to killing a governor in the name of religion, officials said.

The petition demanding the release of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, who gunned down governor of the Punjab province Salman Taseer on January 4, was "dismissed after the preliminary hearing," Islamabad High Court assistant registrar Umar Farooq said.

Police say Qadri, 26, who was the outspoken politician`s bodyguard, has admitted killing his boss because the governor wanted to reform the country`s blasphemy laws.

Lawyer Malik Zafar Awan, who filed the petition, said that he had demanded Qadri be released and his trial by an anti-terrorism court be stopped.

Taseer`s killing has met with mixed reactions in Pakistan, with many from the country`s conservative religious quarter praising the gunman for acting to silence the outspoken moderate politician.

Rallies have been held in honour of Qadri, who was showered with petals at court after he admitted to shooting killing Taseer outside an Islamabad coffee shop. Qadri has said he killed the governor because he sought to amend a law used to sentence a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, to death for blasphemy.

"I told the court that to protect and safeguard the prestige and honour of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, is the first and foremost duty of every Muslim wherever he is and to perform such a duty is not an offence," Awan said.

"Qadri`s detention is therefore illegal."

Judge Malik Mohammad Anwar Kansi rejected the petition and observed "there is a law against blasphemy and there are courts to deal with such cases”, court official Farooq said.

"No one can be allowed to take law into his own hands," the judge had said.

Awan noted that his petition had been dismissed "but I have my right to appeal”.

Human rights activists say the law against defaming the prophet is often used to settle petty disputes, but in the face of huge public support for the legislation, the government has said it has no plans to change it.

The next hearing in Qadri`s case is scheduled for January 24.

Bureau Report