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Blasphemy convict's death 'was murder'

Family questions medical report as Church suspects hate campaign

Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani (right), NCJP director, at funeral of Qamar David Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani (right), NCJP director, at funeral of Qamar David
  • ucanews.com reporter, Lahore
  • Pakistan
  • March 18, 2011
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Pakistani Christians say that a Catholic businessman serving a life imprisonment for blasphemy was tortured and murdered and did not die of a heart attack as stated in a medical report.

The man was found dead in his prison cell.

"Qamar David might have fallen prey to an active hate campaign going on in the country on this issue by extremist groups," the Catholic Bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace NCJP suggested in an update was circulated by email on March 15 the day David, 55, died in “mysterious circumstances” in a jail in Karachi.

David, a wealthy businessman, was arrested in 2006 for being in possession of a SIM phone used for sending derogatory messages insulting the Prophet Mohammad. Though another Muslim co-accused was acquitted for lack of evidence, the Catholic was given life imprisonment and fined 101,000 rupees (US$ 1,183) in 2010 under the blasphemy laws.

Clergy, Church activists and the family of the victim have slammed the initial findings of the doctors.

Reports said Qamar David’s lawyer Pervez Chaudhry maintained that the allegations were spurious, triggered by a business rivalry, and that the conviction was the result of pressure from local religious clerics and their supporters.

Auxiliary Bishop Sebastian Shah of Lahore presided over the funeral on March 17 at St. Joseph Church in Lahore, David’s native city. Women wailed as the coffin was placed in front of the altar. The mass remained tense as relatives scuffled with Catholic media and NCJP workers documenting the funeral.

Vicar General Father Andrew Nisari, in his address, asked congregation of more than 200 to be undeterred in their faith. “Another historic chapter has been added in our struggle against the fatal logic (referring to blasphemy laws). The persecution and discrimination, especially in finding jobs”, has frustrated our youth”, he pointed.

The incident is the latest in a series of blasphemy-related killings. Prayers are still being held around the country for Shahbaz Bhatti, the federal cabinet minister assassinated earlier this month for trying to amend the blasphemy laws.

The blasphemy laws give life imprisonment and death penalty to convicts of insulting to the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad respectively. Church groups, who condemned these legislations for decades, have now adopted a low profile in wake of recent killings.

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