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Rallies Decry Death Sentence For Confessed Assassin In Pakistan

Crowds protested in Pakistan's major cities Friday, against the death sentence handed down last week to the self-confessed killer of Punjab province's Gov. Salman Taseer. One of the governor's bodyguards, Mumtaz Qadri, shot him in cold blood outside a café in Islamabad in January.

Religious parties supporting Qadri rallied in solidarity one day after Qadri filed an appeal challenging the death sentence handed down by an anti-terror court.

They chanted "We are all Qadri" and "Release Qadri Now," in gatherings that numbered a few hundred in Islamabad and more than a thousand in Lahore.

Protesters shut down traffic and burned tires — and they asked why Qadri was sentenced to death, while Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who killed two men in Lahore in January, was set free.

In Punjab, Governor Taseer had been an outspoken critic of Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, and Qadri's supporters regarded him as an apostate. Their vocal support for Taseer's killer has exposed the deepening fault lines over social and religious matters in Pakistan.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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