Legal counsel for Salmaan Taseer’s self-confessed killer claims the murder was not ‘intentional.’
The killer of Salmaan Taseer, who sought reform of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, has appealed to the Supreme Court against his death sentence, lawyers said on Monday.
The High Court in Islamabad last month upheld the death sentence on Mumtaz Qadri, a former police bodyguard who shot dead Punjab governor Taseer in Islamabad in 2011.
Rao Abdul Rahim, a member of the legal team defending Qadri, said they have appealed to the Supreme Court to have the sentence commuted. “We have appealed that it was not an intentional murder and was a sudden act after provocation, so the Supreme Court should acquit him,” said Rahim.
Another defense layer, Muhammad Latif Khawaja, confirmed the appeal.
“He killed Taseer in sudden provocation and there are precedents in which the courts have reduced punishments or acquitted the accused because of this element,” he said.
Qadri shot Taseer 28 times and admitted the killing, saying he objected to the politician’s calls to reform Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which can carry the death penalty.
In high court hearings, Qadri’s lawyers drew on Islamic texts to argue that he was justified in killing Taseer, saying that by criticizing the blasphemy law the politician was himself guilty of blasphemy. The court rejected their case, saying that “from whatever angles it is considered, neither the Islamic law nor the law of the land gives any justification to the act of the accused.”
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan and Qadri has been hailed as a hero by many conservatives eager to drown out calls to soften the legislation. At his original trial, Qadri was showered with rose petals by some lawyers. His legal team has included two judges, including the former chief justice of Lahore High Court.