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CONVICTED OF BLASPHEMY AND DIED IN PRISON

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Qamar David, a Christian convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan has died in mysterious circumstances in a jail in the southern city of Karachi, police said on Tuesday 03/15/2011.

Qamar David was serving a life sentence in Karachi’s central jail for insulting the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad. Officials say he died of a heart attack but his family say that as a fit and healthy man, this is unlikely be true.

Pakistan’s penal code prescribes punishments up to death for blasphemy against Islam and the Prophet. The law has elicited strong criticism – although recently liberals are more nervous about speaking out against it.

That appears to be especially the case since the murder of Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti – a Christian – earlier this month (see -Bhatti Assassination), an event preceded by the murder of another liberal, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in January (see – Tasser Assassination ).

David was convicted of making blasphemous comments against the Koran and the Prophet in a text message to a business rival.

Another woman, Asia Bibi, a mother-of-five, was sentenced to hang, in 11/2010, for insulting the Prophet Muhammad. She denies the charge. Although no-one convicted under the blasphemy law has ever been executed, more than 30 accused have been killed by lynch mobs (see – Baghdad 12.30.10 ). Critics say that convictions under the law hinge on witness testimony, which is often linked to grudges. 

About 1.5% of Pakistan’s 185 million population is Christian.

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