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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Statement on the murder of Mr Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minorities Minister

Statement by Jean Lambert MEP, on behalf of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with South Asia. Mrs Lambert strongly condemned the murder of Mr Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minorities Minister, who was shot dead today in Islamabad.

“I am appalled to learn of the brutal killing today of Mr Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minorities Minister. This dreadful action, which follows the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer earlier this year, is an assault on the fundamental principles of democracy and free speech.

“I met Mr Bhatti last year and was deeply impressed by his strength of purpose and decency. He was a very brave politician who did not allow the death threats that he faced to divert him from speaking out for his beliefs and supporting a reform of the blasphemy law in Pakistan. Tragically his courage has cost him his life. All believers in human rights and democracy must work together to ensure that the forces of bigotry and extremism do not prevail. I urge the Pakistan authorities to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice.

“I should like to send my deepest condolences to the family of Mr Bhatti and to the people of Pakistan at this sad time.”

Background: Mr Shahbaz Bhatti was killed today when on his way to work. He had received a number of death threats after calling for reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

The European Parliament in its resolution of 20 January 2011 expressed its concern that the law is used to persecute religious minorities. Parliament also commended Minister Bhatti for his work and had stressed that it looked to the authorities of Pakistan to protect his life. Effective protection for defenders of equality is ever more urgent.