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Pakistani accused of blasphemy dies in court attack

Written by: Staff
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KARACHI, Pakistan, June 17 (Reuters) A Pakistani Muslim man accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammad has been killed inside a court compound in a frenzied knife attack, police said today.

The suspect accused of blasphemy, Abdul Sattar Gopang, was set upon by two attackers as he was leaving a court in the town of Muzzafargarh, 480 km southeast of Islamabad, yesterday. He was stabbed in the chest 15 times.

Police described the attackers as ''religious fanatics''. The two, a student and a shopkeeper, were arrested on murder charges, policemen Rai Tahir told Reuters by telephone.

''They have no regrets, they're smiling,'' Tahir said. ''They say they decided to kill Gopang at the first opportunity, that it was their duty.'' Gopang had been arrested in March after being accused of uttering blasphemous comments during a fight with a man.

Blasphemy is against the law in Muslim Pakistan and carries the death sentence. Cases are relatively common but death sentences have never been carried out because convictions have always been turned down by high courts citing lack of evidence.

While death sentences have not been carried out, there are occasionally instances of enraged mobs attacking and killing people accused of blasphemy, including desecration of the Koran.

On Thursday, a mob killed a Muslim cleric in a village in Punjab province after members of a rival religious group accused the cleric of burning pages of the Koran.

A teacher who tried to save the cleric was attacked and hurt, said police official Arif Nawaz said.

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said the cleric's killing highlighted how the blasphemy law was abused by people to settle personal or religious disputes.

''We've been demanding that the government change the law radically so people can't misuse it,'' said commission head Iqbal Haider.

REUTERS SHB KP1448

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