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Pakistani Christian Serving Life for Blasphemy Dies In Prison Before He Could Launch His Appeal

Qamar David, a Pakistani Christian who was serving a life sentence for “blasphemy”, died today (Tuesday, March 15, 2011), while in prison in Karachi, Pakistan, in what many believe to be suspicious circumstances.

Pakistani Christians protest
against the blasphemy laws

“The police claimed that he died of heart attack, but many Christians accused of blasphemy have been killed by fundamentalist Muslims in Pakistan,” said a spokesperson for International Christian Concern (www.persecution.org), a Washington-DC based human rights organization.

Qamar David was sentenced to life imprisonment on February 25, 2010, and fined 101,000 Pakistani Rupees (approximately $1,187) for allegedly making blasphemous statements about the Qur’an and the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.

This was six years after the original accusation, and his lawyer has been seeking an appeal hearing since that time. The appeal process can take years in Pakistan.

“In the past, Christians accused of blasphemy have been killed inside prison or while still in court,” added the ICC spokesperson. “On September 20, 2009, Falish Masih was found dead inside his prison cell after he was accused of blasphemy. He had severe wounds on his face, arms and the rest of his body, but the police in Pakistan claimed that Falish committed suicide. Then on July 19, 2010, Muslim extremists shot and killed Rashid Emmanuel and Sajjid Emmanuel, two brothers accused of blasphemy, at a court house in Faisalabad.”

ICC told ANS that it had asked Pakistani officials to release Qamar David in its petition in March 2010, but the Pakistani officials ignored the call for his release.

“We are deeply saddened to hear about the death of David. We are still working on finding the cause of his death. As we have repeatedly said in the past, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are being used by Muslims to persecute Christians. The law has to be abolished and all Christians imprisoned for alleged blasphemy must be released,” said Jonathan Racho, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia.

A spokesperson for Christian Solidarity Worldwide (www.csw.org.uk), another human rights group, this one based in the UK, said, “Qamar David’s lawyer has always 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. Both he and his client have experienced threats or violence from mobs at nearly every court hearing in this case.”

Andrew Johnston, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) Advocacy Director, said, “We are shocked to hear this sad news and our thoughts and prayers are with Qamar David’s wife and children. The last nine years of this family’s life have been utterly ravaged by the consequences of a vindictive blasphemy accusation that would have very likely been dismissed by the High Court in time. It is yet another tragic example of lives needlessly destroyed by the blasphemy laws in Pakistan and the inability of the government, court system and prisons to prevent this. Given the threats known to be faced by blasphemy prisoners, it is imperative that the true cause of his death be investigated properly and independently.

“This news comes less than two weeks days after the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, and it underlines the urgent need to continue his work. The government must address both the ease with which the blasphemy laws can be abused, and the social attitudes which view it as acceptable to do so.”

Joseph Francis, National Director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), in Pakistan, told the ASSIST News Service, “Hopefully we will get the full details about his unexpected passing away and will up-date accordingly with the cause of Qamar’s death as the family is in contact with CLAAS.

“CLAAS is deeply saddened by the sudden death of Mr. Qamar David, May his soul rest in peace! You are requested please pray for the family of Qamar David this moment. May the Lord of heaven give them His own peace to bear this un-repairable loss in their lives.”

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