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Pakistani Islamists protest death in German jail

Written by: Staff

ISLAMABAD, May 12 (Reuters) Islamist party activists organised small but fiery protests in Islamabad and several other cities of Pakistan today against the death of a Pakistani in a Berlin jail.

Amir Cheema, 28, died in custody after he was arrested in Germany in March on charges of attempting to kill the editor of a German newspaper, Die Welt, for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad first published in Denmark last year.

Some 300 protesters, mostly drawn from the Sunni Students Movement of Pakistan, demonstrated outside Islamabad's Red Mosque after Friday prayers.

''The Jews and Christians have decided to finish you. You must follow the footsteps of Amir Cheema to fight back and seek martyrdom,'' Hafiz Muhammad, a local religious leader, exhorted the students, who chanted slogans of ''Al Jihad, Al Jihad'' (Holy War) and ''Allah-o-Akbar, Allah-o-Akbar (God is Great).

There were also demonstrations in Lahore, Multan, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan -- all cities in central Punjab province.

Gunter Mulack, German ambassador to Pakistan, told a press conference that Cheema's body had been handed over to Pakistani authorities and it was expected to be flown home tomorrow.

''Mr Cheema was found dead on May 3rd in pre-trial confinement ... There are no traces or indications of physical violence or other external influence,'' Mulack said, adding that a report on the case had been given to Pakistani investigators in Berlin.

Islamists have threatened countrywide protests on the day of Cheema's funeral, whose body is expected to arrive in Lahore, some 280 km southeast of Islamabad.

Posters put on trees outside Islamabad's Lal Mosque, a known venue for radical Islamists, called for a jihad, while pamphlets and newspapers eulogised Cheema as a martyr.

Islamists also threatened to attack German interests and called for the expulsion of its ambassador, as well as the overthrow of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf.

Qari Gul Rehman, an opposition lawmaker in the National Assembly, told the crowd that Musharraf's government was made up of drinking, womanising cowards and lackeys of the United States.

A man near the podium snatched the microphone from Rehman, but was set upon with sticks by the crowd. Journalists filming the incident were also beaten.

Some of the largest and most violent protests against the cartoons in the Islamic world took place in Pakistan, as Islamist parties seized on the issue to undermine Musharraf.

In the northwestern city of Peshawar a Muslim preacher offered a bounty for the killing of cartoonists. Depicting images of the Prophet is against the teachings of Islam.


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