Terrorist involved in Christian politician Shahbaz Bhatti's murder gets bail
The prime suspect in the 2011 Shahbaz Bhatti assassination was granted bail this weekend.
Umar Abdullah was granted a bond of one million Pakistani rupees, or about $10,000 U.S. dollars, by the country's Anti-Terrorism Court. Abdullah admitted to police that he had committed terrorist acts, and that he was involved in the death of Bhatti.
Bhatti was Pakistan's Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the only Christian in the Cabinet. He fought for the rights of the country's religious minorities, and denounced laws that oppressed freedom of religion.
After years of threats against his life, Bhatti's car was shot over two dozen times on March 2, 2011. He died at the scene. The assassins left pamphlets on his body that read,"its punishment of a blasphemer by Tehreek Talban Punjab TTP," and warned that anyone who opposed Pakistan's laws against blasphemy would be murdered as well. The TTP is an Islamic terrorist coalition of Pakistani Taliban groups.
Abdullah and four other suspects - Hammad Adil, Tanveer and Abdul Sattar – were arrested in 2013. All are TTP members. During interrogations, Abdullah also admitted to killing senior prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar.
Just two months before Bhatti's murder, Governor Salmaan Taseer was shot over two dozen times by his bodyguard. Taseer, like Bhatti, opposed the use of the country's laws against blasphemy to persecute religious minorities. The men were outspoken in protesting the death sentence handed down to Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian accused of blasphemy in 2010. Bibi remains on death row.
Four months before his death, Bhatti recorded a video in which he expressed his commitment to his Christian faith.
"I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us, and I am ready to die for a cause," Bhatti said. "I'm living for my community... and I will die to defend their rights."