10/20/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Judge who sentenced Salman Taseer’s murderer removed

by Jibran Khan
A powerful Muslim lawyers’ association forces High Court to replace judge who sentenced Mumtaz Qadri. Islamabad priest says, Islamic religious groups “are becoming powerful each passing day.”
Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Lahore High Court (LHC) repatriated Anti-terrorism Court (ATC) Judge Pervez Ali Shah, who announced the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri, the security guard who murdered Punjab Governor Salman Taseer for defending Asia Bibi, a woman unjustly sentenced to death on blasphemy charges. District and Sessions Judge Moqurab Khan will replace Shah as the ATC judge in Rawalpindi. The Rawalpindi Bar Association had set a five-day deadline for a nationwide strike if Shah was not suspended or transferred.

Mumtaz Qadri has appealed to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against his verdict. A division bench of the IHC suspended the death sentence on an application by Mumtaz Qadri`s defence lawyer, former LHC Chief Justice Khawaja Sharif. A final decision in his appeal is pending before the IHC.

Sunni Ittehad (SI), a radical Islamic movement, has already announced a "Remove the government March" on behalf of Mumtaz Qadri on 21 November from Rawalpindi to Karachi. And other pro-Qadri protests were announced after the Friday prayers in Pakistan’s major cities.

Humanitarian organisations have condemned the punishment on humanitarian grounds, saying that “life imprisonment is a better option.”

“Once again the judiciary has been pressured by the lawyers and a judge has been transferred for taking the decision for what he thought was right in the eyes of the law,” Fr Rehmat Hakim, from the Diocese of Islamabad, told AsiaNews. “Islamic religious groups have already made the government take a u-turn on the blasphemy law. These groups are becoming powerful each passing day.”
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