[QODLink]
Central & South Asia
Pakistan charges Taseer's 'killer'
Police commando claims killing the Punjab governor was required under Quranic and Islamic laws.
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2011 14:35 GMT
In addition to Qadri's three defence lawyers, more than 500 others have offered to defend him for free [AFP]

A police commando has been charged by a Pakistani court with terrorism and murder for the killing of the liberal politician Salman Taseer.

Monday's session in an anti-terrorism court in a Rawalpindi city jail was held behind closed doors.

Mumtaz Qadri, 25, admitted to shooting dead Taseer, the governor of Punjab state, on January 4 while serving as his bodyguard.

Taseer had spoken out against stringent blasphemy laws which impose the death penalty for insulting Islam.

When the judge asked Qadri if he had intentionally killed Taseer, he said he did not consider his actions illegal, according to Shuja-ur-Rehman Raja, the defence lawyer.

The lawyer quoted his client as saying he dealt with "an apostate" as required under Quranic and Islamic laws.

Raja, prosecutors and legal experts said Qadri's statement was considered a guilty plea under Pakistani law, despite his efforts to justify the killing and deny that it was illegal.

Qadri's popularity could be gauged from the flowers and Valentine's Day cards delivered by students [AFP]

"Qadri's statement is a complete confession of an uncondonable and brutal murder," Iqbal Haider, a human rights campaigner and former law minister, said.

"All sane people will appreciate this indictment."

An evidence hearing has been set for February 26.

More than 500 lawyers have offered to defend Qadri for free.

Outside the court on Monday, dozens of Muslim activists carried banners saluting Qadri and demanded his immediate release.

A small group of college students gave police flowers and a Valentine's Day card they wanted delivered to the defendant.

"Happy Valentine!" read one of the banners.

The next hearing in the trial will be on February 26, when witnesses and evidence will be presented.

Taseer, a prominent member of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, campaigned for a reform of the laws after a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death last year for allegedly insulting Islam's prophet, Muhammad.

The killing, outside a cafe in Islamabad, was the most prominent political assassination since the 2007 killing of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto - and shocked the country's liberal elite, who interpreted it as a "death knell" for reform efforts.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Your chance to be an investigative journalist in Al Jazeera’s new interactive game.
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Featured
Private citizens take initiative to help 'irregular' migrants, accusing governments of excessive focus on security.
Indonesia's cassava plantations are being killed by mealybugs, and thousands of wasps have been released to stop them.
Violence in Ain al-Arab has prompted many Kurdish Syrians to flee to Turkey, but others are returning to battle ISIL.
Unelected representatives quietly iron out logistics of massive TPP and TTIP deals among US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.
Led by students concerned for their future with 'nothing to lose', it remains to be seen who will blink first.