Taseer''s assassin cheered by supporters at court appearance

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Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Jan 24 (PTI) Dozens of supporters cheeredthe assassin of Governor Salmaan Taseer as he was produced inan anti-terrorism court in the Pakistani garrison city ofRawalpindi for a preliminary trial hearing.

Mumtaz Qadri, the 26-year-old police guard who gunneddown Taseer in Islamabad on January 4 for criticising thecontroversial blasphemy law, was taken to Adiala Jail, wherethe proceedings are being held behind closed doors forsecurity reasons.

Despite tight security arrangements put in place forQadri''s court appearance, over 50 supporters gathered outsidethe jail, waving placards, singing religious songs andshouting slogans like "Allah is great", "Long Live Qadri" and"We salute you Qadri".

After police submitted a report on the case, the judgeadjourned the hearing till February 1, when Qadri is likely tobe formally indicted.

Qadri has confessed that he killed Taseer because ofthe politician''s opposition to the blasphemy law and hisdefence of a Christian woman sentenced to death last year forallegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Investigators are yet to determine if Qadri actedalone or was part of a wider conspiracy.

Police believe Qadri was motivated by the fierysermons of two Rawalpindi-based clerics, Mufti Hanif Qureshiand Qari Imtiaz Shah. Both clerics were granted pre-arrestbail by the anti-terrorism court judge, who said theprosecution had failed to produce adequate evidence againstthem.

Qureshi, who heads the little-known Shabab-e-Islamireligious party, was among the people who gathered outside thejail to support Qadri. He said he wanted Qadri to be freed bythe court.

Madrassa students and lawyers cheered Qadri andshowered rose petals on him during two earlier courtappearances in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

Nearly 50,000 religious hardliners who participated ina recent rally in Karachi also praised Qadri and demanded thatthe government should not repeal or amend the blasphemy law.

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