A Pakistani court has decided to hear the appeal of the confessed-killer Mumtaz Qadri, who was sentenced to death this month for killing the Governor of Punjab earlier this year. The court's decision means that Qadri's death sentence has been suspended, until the high court rules on the appeal.
From Islamabad, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports that hundreds of his supporters rallied outside the courthouse, saying Qadri killed in support of Pakistan's blasphemy laws:
Calling for Qadri's freedom, demonstrators rallied in solidarity for the bodyguard who gunned down the official he was charged with protecting. To his supporters Qadri is a hero who silenced one of the most progressive, secular-minded voices in the country, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. Their stalwart defense of his killer has raised concerns about growing radicalism in Pakistan.
Qadri tried to justify the murder by saying that he had killed Taseer for his vocal opposition to the country's strict blasphemy laws. Taseer had publicly defended a Christian woman convicted to die under Pakistan's blasphemy law, which he condemned as an affront to tolerance. Members of Pakistan legal fraternity volunteered to represent Qadri. Leading the defense team on appeal is the former Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court. The Islamabad High Court stayed Qadri's execution ... pending further appeal proceedings.
CNN reports that Qadri's attorney is asking for a new trial.
"Qadri was provoked by the governor and should therefore be tried for murder, not an act of terror which is what he was tried for earlier" Raja Shuja Ur Rehman told CNN.