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Suspect in provincial governor's death gets gifts, praise in jail

By Reza Sayah, CNN
Hard-line religious groups have congratulated Mumtaz Qadri for killing the liberal governor of Pakistan's Punjab province.
Hard-line religious groups have congratulated Mumtaz Qadri for killing the liberal governor of Pakistan's Punjab province.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Salman Taseer, Punjab province governor, was assassinated earlier this month
  • His bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri was arrested
  • Qadri told police he kiled Taseer because he was trying to change Pakistan's blasphemy laws
  • Qadri's lawyer says he has no regrets
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Islabamad, Pakistan (CNN) -- A man who confessed to assassinating a leading liberal Pakistani politician is being showered with gifts and praise by his fellow prison inmates, his attorney told CNN.

Mumtaz Qadri was arrested earlier this month, moments after he allegedly sprayed Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, with more than 20 bullets outside a market in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. At the time of the shooting, Qadri was working as one of Taseer's security guards.

Police said Qadri confessed to the killing and said he assassinated his boss because of Taseer's campaign to change Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws.

At the prison just outside of Islamabad where Qadri is being kept, fellow inmates are offering him their clothes, blankets and meals, said Qadri's lawyer, Malik Waheed Anjum.

He said his client has no regrets over Taseer's death and spends most of his time reciting the Quran in jail.

"Qadri is proud and satisfied with what he did," Anjum told CNN.

Pakistan's hard-line religious groups have also congratulated Qadri. Since the shooting they have held demonstrations calling him a hero, while condemning anyone who tries to change Pakistan's blasphemy laws. At the rallies, pictures of Qadri's smiling face regularly adorn posters and banners.

In Pakistan's major cities, liberal and moderate groups have held competing although much smaller demonstrations condemning Qadri and praising what they call Taseer's campaign to change the blasphemy law that they claim was being misused to persecute minorities.

At a hearing on Monday inside Qadri's prison, investigators submitted to a judge their findings, claiming Qadri was indeed Taseer's killer.

Police recommended the death penalty for Qadri, said Raja Shuja Ur Rehman, another member of his defense team.

Court officials said they held the hearing inside the prison to avoid a repeat of mass demonstrations that took place when Qadri was transported to a courthouse earlier this month. He is scheduled to be formally charged at a hearing in February.

Journalist Nasir Habib contributed to this report.

 
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