Salman Taseer Murder: Qadri Appeals Against Death Penalty

Salman Taseer Murder: Qadri Appeals Against Death Penalty

The killer of a Pakistani politician who sought reform of the country's controversial blasphemy law has appealed to the Supreme Court against his death sentence, lawyers said today.

The High Court in Islamabad last month upheld the death sentence on Mumtaz Qadri, a former police bodyguard who shot dead Punjab governor Salman Taseer in Islamabad in 2011.

Rao Abdul Rahim, a member of the legal team defending Qadri, said they have appealed to the Supreme Court to have the sentence commuted.

"We have appealed that it was not an intentional murder and was a sudden act after provocation, so the Supreme Court should acquit him," Rahim told AFP.

Another defence layer, Muhammad Latif Khawaja, confirmed the appeal.

"He killed Taseer in sudden provocation and there are precedents in which the courts have reduced punishments or acquitted the accused because of this element," he said.

Qadri shot Taseer 28 times and admitted the killing, saying he objected to the politician's calls to reform Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws, which can carry the death penalty.

In high court hearings, Qadri's lawyers drew on Islamic texts to argue that he was justified in killing Taseer, saying that by criticising the blasphemy law the politician was himself guilty of blasphemy.

The court rejected their case, saying that "from whatever angles it is considered, neither the Islamic law nor the law of the land gives any justification to the act of the accused".

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Muslim Pakistan and Qadri has been hailed as a hero by many conservatives eager to drown out calls to soften the legislation.

At his original trial, Qadri was showered with rose petals by some lawyers. His legal team has included two judges, including the former chief justice of Lahore High Court.

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