Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the bodyguard arrested for the killing of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, shouts religious slogans while being taken away by police after he was presented at a court in Islamabad. -Reuters Photo

LAHORE: Lawyers showered the suspected killer of a prominent Pakistani governor with rose petals when he arrived at court Wednesday and an influential Muslim scholars group praised the assassination of the outspoken opponent of laws that order death for those who insult Islam.

Mumtaz Qadri made his first appearance in an Islamabad court, where a judge remanded him in custody a day after he allegedly sprayed automatic gunfire at the back of Punjab province Gov. Salman Taseer while he was supposed to be protecting him as a bodyguard.

A rowdy crowd slapped him on the back and kissed his cheek as he was escorted inside. The lawyers who tossed handfuls of rose petals over him were not involved in the case.

As he left the court, a crowd of about 200 sympathizers chanted ''death is acceptable for Muhammad's slave.'' The suspect stood at the back door of an armored police van with a flower necklace given to him by an admirer and repeatedly yelled ''God is great.''

More than 500 clerics and scholars from the group Jamat Ahle Sunnat said no one should pray or express regret for the killing of the governor. The group representing Pakistan's majority Barelvi sect, which follows a brand of Islam considered moderate, also issued a veiled threat to other opponents of the blasphemy laws.

''The supporter is as equally guilty as one who committed blasphemy,'' the group warned in a statement, adding politicians, the media and others should learn ''a lesson from the exemplary death.''

Jamat leader Maulana Shah Turabul Haq Qadri paid ''glorious tribute to the murderer ... for his courage, bravery and religious honor and integrity.''

Mumtaz Qadri told interrogators Tuesday that he shot the liberal Taseer multiple times because of the politician's vocal opposition to the harsh blasphemy laws.

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