Islamabad High Court has suspended former Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri’s death sentence.

The Islamabad High Court held a preliminary hearing to admit the appeal filed recently by Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri’s lawyers, who was working as one ofPunjabgovernor Salmaan Taseer’s bodyguards when he killed him earlier in 2011.

“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 decide about a later date for the next hearing, said Shuja-ur-Rehman.

Qadri has confessed to killing Taseer in a hail of bullets outside an upmarket coffee shop inIslamabadon January 4, 2011.

The policeman 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.

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 outsideIslamabad. Meanwhile, hundreds of demonstrators have rallied in support of Qadri.

Tuesday’s rally took place as Qadri appealed his death sentence before a high court.