Death sentence upheld for killer of Pakistani governor over blasphemy law

(Reuters) – A Pakistani court upheld the death sentence on Monday for the killer of the governor of Pakistan’s largest province after he had called for reform of a law against blasphemy, media said.

The ruling was a surprise to many who had expected the killer’s sentence might be reduced amid growing threats to lawyers and judges hearing blasphemy-related cases.

Mumtaz Qadri was a bodyguard for Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and was convicted of shooting him dead in Islamabad in January 2011.

Taseer was an outspoken critic of predominantly Muslim Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy law – which carries the death penalty.

Qadri is viewed as a hero by many people who thought Taseer himself was a blasphemer by calling for the law’s reform.

The killing highlighted a growing gulf between conservatives and more liberal elements in society. Some lawyers threw rose petals at Qadri when he arrived in court days after the killing.

The judge who convicted Qadri was forced to flee the country after death threats.