News / Asia

    Demonstrators Prevent Court Appearance of Alleged Pakistani Assassin

    The alleged killer of Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, being brought to a court in Islamabad, Pakistan, Jan 05, 2011
    The alleged killer of Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, being brought to a court in Islamabad, Pakistan, Jan 05, 2011

    Supporters of the alleged assassin of the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province complicated authorities' efforts to bring him before a judge Thursday.

    For a second day, sympathizers showed their support for Mumtaz Qadri by chanting slogans, with some throwing rose petals when police finally brought him to the Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi.

    Authorities had tried to bring Qadri to the court from the nearby capital of Islamabad earlier Thursday, but sympathizers prevented his transfer. The judge also refused to travel to Islamabad for Qadri's court appearance.

    The court granted a five-day physical remand of Qadri to police as they continue to investigate the case. He is scheduled to appear before the court again on January 10.

    Qadri confessed to killing Punjab Governor Salman Taseer on Tuesday because of Taseer's opposition to Pakistan's controversial anti-blasphemy law. He was a member of Taseer's security team.

    Pakistani officials say an investigation is underway to determine whether Qadri acted alone or was part of a wider conspiracy.

    Hundreds of lawyers said they are willing to defend Qadri. In addition, 500 conservative religious scholars issued a proclamation Wednesday praising the assassination and warning that anyone who expresses grief over the killing could suffer the same fate.

    Taseer was a staunchly secular and progressive politician, and an outspoken opponent of religious extremism. He led a charge to reform a blasphemy law that sets harsh penalties for offenders. He recently called for the release of a Christian woman condemned to death for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.

    Taseer's killing is the highest-profile political assassination in Pakistan since former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed three years ago.

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