Salman Taseer murder: Killer's appeal denied

Mumtaz Qadri smiles after being detained at the site of Taseer's shooting in Islamabad 4 January 2011 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mumtaz Qadri was sentenced to death for the murder of Salman Taseer

Pakistan's Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of a police bodyguard who killed a senior politician over his support for blasphemy law reform.

Mumtaz Qadri was guarding Punjab governor Salman Taseer in an Islamabad market in 2011 when he shot Taseer.

Qadri claimed it was his religious duty to kill the governor over his support for liberal reforms to blasphemy law, but was sentenced to death.

The failure of his appeal is a setback for the country's religious extremists.

Qadri can still file for a review of the court ruling or appeal for a presidential pardon, but his lawyer told the BBC it was not yet decided.

Taseer was an outspoken critic of the harsh blasphemy law and had sought a presidential pardon for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Her appeal is still pending with the Supreme Court.

Judge threatened

When Qadri killed the governor in 2014, he was hailed by many as a hero, and lawyers in Islamabad's district courts garlanded him when he was taken there for hearings.

He was sentenced to death by a trial court in October 2011. The judge who passed the sentence was forced to leave the country due to threats by extremists and has not been heard from since.

How Punjab governor's killer became a hero

The Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday comes months after Pakistan lifted a seven-year moratorium on executions.

Under Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, anyone accused of insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.

Since 1990, at least 65 people have been killed in cases linked to blasphemy, according to data collected by Reuters news agency.

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