Yesterday, the High Court in Lahore, Pakistan, upheld the murder conviction against self-confessed killer, Mumtaz Qadri, despite significant pressure from Islamist supporters of “blasphemy” laws to free him. The court also overturned his conviction for terrorism.
In 2011, Mumtaz Qadri assassinated his own employer, the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer. Taseer had criticised ‘blasphemy’ laws, and supported those victimized by ‘blasphemy’ accusations, most famously championing the case of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for supposedly insulting Islam during an argument with neighbours. Mumtaz Qadri, who was meant to be acting as Taseer’s bodyguard, shot him dead on the streets of Islamabad.
Qadri’s appeal case centered on the argument that extrajudicial killing could be a legitimate response to those criticising “blasphemy” laws or otherwise committing “blasphemy”, in effect that he was only carrying out a death sentence that the court might hand down anyway. In rejecting the appeal, the High Court decision refutes this argument as fallacious – the judges argued that even members of the judiciary did not have a right to personally kill someone even if they were found guilty of a capital crime.
Qadri, a self-confessed murderer, has been hailed as a hero by some supporters of the ‘blasphemy’ laws, who formed large crowds at his trial. Qadri received support from dozens of lawyers and his appeal was lead by a former senior member of the judiciary. In connection with Monday’s appeal decision, which had to be held behind closed doors, speakers at a rally of supporters threatened “extreme action if the decree was implemented”
The full response and a statement from IHEU president Sonja Eggerickx is available on the IHEU website.
For more information on blasphemy laws worldwide, please see the End Blasphemy Laws Campaign website