Official: Jailed Pakistan Christian dies in prison

AP News
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Posted: Mar 16, 2011 6:17 AM
Official: Jailed Pakistan Christian dies in prison

A Pakistani Christian jailed for blasphemy has died in prison and his lawyer said Wednesday he suspected the man had been murdered.

Regional prison chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo said the prison doctor believed Qumar David, 50, died of a heart attack on Tuesday in Karachi Central Jail after complaining of chest pain. An autopsy is due to be carried out on the body in the presence of his family members.

Two prominent Pakistani politicians have been murdered this year for their campaign to change blasphemy laws that make it a capital offense to insult Islam. Critics say the laws are widely misused to persecute Christians or settle scores in the mostly Muslim country.

Human rights groups say Christians convicted under the law have been murdered by extremists.

David's lawyer Pervez Chaudhry says he is "100 percent" certain it was murder but was unable to offer evidence. Chaudhry said both he and David had received death threats during the trial in 2010.

David was serving a 25-year prison term for blasphemy.

Christians have long been a persecuted minority in Pakistan and frequently complain they have little access to justice.

Pakistan's ruling party is broadly secular, but is under pressure from Islamist political parties as well as militants waging a bloody campaign of violence. It has not spoken out loudly against the murders of the two politicians, and shelved any plans to amend the blasphemy laws to try and make them less susceptible to abuse.