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Pakistan Court Orders Death For Assassin Of Blasphemy Reform Governor

Images of killer Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri feted by supporters and garlanded with flowers in custody shocked critics of Pakistan's hard-line religious establishment.
A Pakistani court has condemed to death the policeman who killed Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, who had been targeted by hard-liners for his stand against the death penalty for blasphemers.

State television reports that Judge Prevez Ali Shah handed down two death sentences for murder and terrorism to Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, who gunned down Taseer in Islamabad on January 4, 2011.

Qadri, sentenced behind closed doors in a high-security prison in Rawalpindi, now has seven days to file an appeal.

Qadri was part of the security detail provided to Taseer by the Elite Police and confessed to killing the governor over Taseer's calls to amend Pakistan's strict blasphemy law, which allows the death penalty for those convicted of defaming the Prophet Muhammad.

Images of Qadri garlanded with flowers and hailed by the public after his apprehension incensed critics of Pakistan's religious fundamentalists.

Taseer had championed the cause of a Christian woman sentenced to death in a blasphemy case, which arose out of a local dispute.

Taseer had said the law was being misused and should be reformed.

Incidents of so-called blasphemy attacks and accusations by hard-liners appeared to increase after the Taseer killing.

compiled from agency reports