11 Jan 2011

Pope urges repeal of blasphemy law in Pakistan

10:12 am on 11 January 2011

Pope Benedict XVI has called for the repeal of Pakistan's blasphemy law, because it could be used as a pretext for acts of injustice and violence against religious minorities.

In an address on Monday, he highlighted what he called the tragic murder last week of the governor of Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, a prominent liberal politician, Salmaan Taseer.

A police bodyguard has confessed in court to the killing last Tuesday.

The BBC reports Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri told the Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi that he had acted alone in the attack.

After the assassination in Islamabad, the accused said he was angered by Mr Taseer's backing for proposed amendments to the blasphemy laws - under which a Christian woman faces the death sentence.

Mr Taseer angered hardline clerics by visiting her in jail and by supporting proposed reforms to the legislation.

The Pope made his remarks in an address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican.

"I once more encourage the leaders of that country [Pakistan] to take the necessary steps to abrogate that law," he said.

"The tragic murder of the governor of Punjab shows the urgent need to make progress in this direction," he added.