Huge Funeral for Pakistani Who Died in Jail in Prophet Drawing Case

More than 50,000 people attended the funeral Saturday of a Pakistani student who died while under arrest in Germany for allegedly planning to attack a newspaper that published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

About three dozen people were injured in a stampede when crowds tried to enter the family's home in the Pakistani village of Saroki to see Amer Cheema's face, police and witnesses said.

Mourners chanted "God is great!" and "We are slaves of Prophet Muhammad!" Some congratulated Cheema's father, kissing his hand and calling his son a martyr.

German police say Cheema, 28, hanged himself in his Berlin prison cell on May 3 using a noose made from his clothes. But Cheema's sister, Kishwar Zuhair, on Friday dismissed the German claim.

Cheema was arrested March 20 as he tried to enter the Berlin office of Axel Springer, the publisher of Die Welt. He was allegedly armed with a knife.

The newspaper was one of several in Europe that reprinted the caricatures of Islam's holiest figure in a show of support for freedom of expression after their first publication in a Danish newspaper angered Muslims.

More than 50,000 people attended the funeral in Saroki, 90 miles northwest of Lahore, said Fayyaz Bhutta, the district mayor.

Cheema's father, Nazir Cheema, urged the mourners to remain peaceful after they began chanting slogans against Germany and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, claiming the student had been tortured to death.

Musharraf has angered many Pakistanis by supporting the U.S.-led war on terror.

"I request all of you to please just pray for my son. Don't harm any one. Don't damage anything," the father told a crowd gathered at his home.

Cheema's coffin arrived Saturday at Lahore airport in Pakistan from Germany and a government helicopter carried the body to Saroki. He had been studying in Germany since 2004.

Lawmakers in Islamabad last week discussed the death in parliament and said that Cheema's family believed he was tortured to death, though they offered no evidence.

The German Embassy in Islamabad on Friday expressed regret over Cheema's death but said "the results of the autopsy ... confirm the preliminary findings: There are no traces or indications of physical violence or other external influences."

It said a final written report on Cheema's post-mortem investigation will be conveyed to Pakistan.

The reprinting of the prophet drawings touched off outrage in the Islamic world, especially in Pakistan, where tens of thousands of people took to the street in often violent protests.

Islamic tradition bars drawings of Muhammad to discourage idolatry.

At least five people died in Pakistan earlier this year in prophet drawing protests called by hardline religious groups. Since then, many tribesmen have offered millions of dollars as a reward to anyone who kills the cartoonists who drew them.