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Lawyer: Pakistan governor's killer sentenced to death

By Nasir Habib
updated 7:31 AM EDT, Sat October 1, 2011
Salman Taseer had spoken out against Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law.
Salman Taseer had spoken out against Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Mumtaz Hussain Qadri tells his lawyer not to appeal his death sentence
  • Qadri was part of Gov. Taseer's security detail when he shot him
  • Qadri argues he did not commit murder because he was following the Quran
  • Qadri's supporters hail him as a hero and have called for his release

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- A security guard who killed a liberal politician in Pakistan over his remarks on its controversial blasphemy law has been convicted and sentenced to death, his defense lawyer told CNN.

Raja Shuja Ur Rehman said the court in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, also imposed a penalty of $2,250.

Police say Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, a policeman serving as a security guard for Punjab governor Salman Taseer, shot him dead on January 4 over his remarks on Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law in a market in Islamabad.

Police said Qadri was charged with murder and with committing an act of terrorism, because the shooting occurred in a public place. He was sentenced to death on both counts.

His lawyer said after the ruling he planned to file an appeal in a higher court, as he did considered the verdict to be unjust.

But when he spoke to his client later, Qadri asked him not to go ahead. "Don't go for an appeal. I can't wait to see (the Prophet) Mohammed in heaven," Qadri said, according to Rehman.

The lawyer told CNN his client was celebrating the news of his conviction and death sentence in his jail cell.

"I am proud that my sacrifice has been accepted by God," he quoted Qadri as saying. "Don't feel bad for me, please ask all Muslims to congratulate me today."

Rehman said that according to Pakistani law a higher court must review the case, even if there is no appeal.

The murdered governor's daughter, Shehrbano Taseer, said the family was not commenting on Qadri's conviction and death sentence.

Police say Qadri confessed to gunning down the man he was supposed to be protecting.

But Qadri argues he didn't commit murder because his actions weren't a crime in the circumstances, his lawyer said.

"I acted against a blasphemer per the guidelines of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed," Qadri told the judge, according to his lawyer. "I didn't kill an innocent person."

Since the shooting, Pakistan's hard-line religious groups have held demonstrations calling Qadri a hero. They have called for his release, while condemning anyone who tries to change Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

Qadri was also given a hero's welcome in jail, where several prisoners offered him their food and clothes.

His supporters also brought flowers and cards to the jail on Valentine's Day.

"Around 50 people stood outside the jail bearing flowers and Valentine's wishes for the assassin," Rehman said. "It wasn't clear whether jail officials delivered the flowers to Qadri."

The trial was conducted by Pakistan's anti-terrorist court, a special court set up to allow swift justice for terror suspects. It was held inside the jail where Qadri is being kept for security reasons.

Taseer, a successful businessman as well as politician, had spoken out against Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law, which makes it a crime punishable by death to insult Islam, the Quran or the Prophet Mohammed. The legislation has been criticized by some as being used to entrap minorities.

Police say that Taseer's family members have been receiving threats from militants since his assassination.

His son Shahbaz Taseer, who was taking care of his father's business interests, was kidnapped in the eastern city of Lahore, the governor's home town, last month.

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