10/08/2015, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Pakistan’s Supreme Court confirms death sentence for murderer of Salman Taseer

by Skafique Khokhar
The Governor of Punjab was murdered for defending Asia Bibi. Lawyers killer ask for presidential pardon. The culprit has defended "legitimacy" of murder. Catholic activist: "The judgment shows that the Court is independent and free from the extremists pressures." Analyst warns: "The government will face pressure to avoid carrying out the judgment."

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The Pakistani Supreme Court has confirmed the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed murderer of the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. The Court thus affirmed the value of the judgment of the High Court in Islamabad, issued in February 2015, that "nothing can justify the murder of the victim" and the first instance of the anti-terrorism Court in October 2011.

The assassin’s lawyer had appealed to the highest judicial authority in the country, justifying the act of his client as "legitimate", because Pakistan is an Islamic country and not secular. He is now seeking a presidential pardon.

On January 4, 2011 Mumtaz Qadri, one of Taseer's bodyguards, On January 4, 2011 Mumtaz Qadri, one of Taseer's bodyguards, killed the governor leaving a restaurant in Islamabad, for his positions against the blasphemy law, which provides for life imprisonment or the death sentence for those who desecrate the Koran or desecrate the name of the prophet Muhammad.

 Qadri has always claimed responsibility for the murder and to punish the governor, who had spoken in favor of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother held on charges of insulting the Prophet. For this he was hailed as a "national hero" by the Islamists.

Peter Jacob, director of the Centre for Social Justice, told AsiaNews: "Given the case and the context, we expected this result, even if we as Catholics and human rights activists do not approve of the death penalty. The decision shows after all that the Supreme Court is independent and free from fundamentalist influences. The ruling will reopen the debate closed after the high-profile murder. "

Fr. Bonnie Mendes commented to AsiaNews the verdict: "The judgment of Qadri is very significant at this time, when many Pakistanis believe that the judges are under heavy pressure from terrorists. The Supreme Court has spoken courageously and clearly stated that criticizing the blasphemy law - as Taseer had done, calling it the 'black law' - does not make him guilty of blasphemy. The judges issued the judgment without fear. This is good for the country. "

Suneel Malik, director of the Foundation for Peace and Human Development, said: "It is a positive signal for the rule of law in Pakistan that the highest court not only upheld the death penalty for Mumtaz Qadri, but has also decreed the nullity the decision of the High Court in Islamabad to set aside the judgment based on the anti-terrorism law, accepting instead the government's request to re-enter the terrorism charges against the accused. "

"The victims – he continues -, the judges and the lawyers involved in these cases suffer serious threats, but should not make concessions to the state of law and justice. This type of bold decisions help to curb extremism in Pakistan”.

Wajahat Masood, a renowned analyst, columnist and teacher, however, warns: "The government is still under a lot of pressure not to execute Mumtaz Qadri, because he has a powerful lobby that supports him. But the balance of power in the army is changing. Hanging Qadri could send a strong message to the supporters of extremism. However, it is still premature to say whether the sentence will be carried out or not. "

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