A Pakistani court on Tuesday suspended a policeman's death sentence pending his appeal against conviction for killing a provincial governor who wanted to reform controversial blasphemy laws.
The Islamabad high court held a preliminary hearing to admit the appeal filed last week by lawyers for Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, who was working as one of Punjab governor Salman Taseer's bodyguards when he shot him dead.
"The high court suspended the implementation of the death sentence awarded by the anti-terrorism court until the appeal hearing concludes," said defence lawyer Shuja-ur-Rehman.
The court's two-judge panel will now fix a date for the next hearing, he added.
Qadri has confessed to killing Taseer in a hail of bullets outside an upmarket coffee shop in Islamabad on January 4.
He said he objected to the politician's calls to amend the blasphemy law, which mandates the death penalty for those convicted of defaming the Prophet Mohammed.
Qadri was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by an anti-terror court on October 1 but the verdict led to an outcry by his supporters.
Hundreds of people staged rallies across Pakistan last Friday demanding the release of Qadri and the judge who handed down the death sentence has not turned up for work since the verdict, apparently over fears for his safety.
Rehman said the court had rejected a verbal request by the defence lawyers for the appeal to be heard in open session for security reasons.
The anti-terror trial of Qadri was also held behind closed doors, at the high-security Adiyala prison outside Islamabad.