Police arrest anti-blasphemy law protesters

Posted: Friday, January 19, 2001

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) -- Police fired tear gas and arrested 50 members of Pakistan's minority religions during a protest in the heart of Karachi, Pakistan's commercial and financial hub.

About 600 people marched to protest the country's controversial blasphemy laws that impose the death penalty on anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or its prophet, Mohammed.

Most of those detained under the blasphemy laws belong to minority religious groups. The majority of Pakistan's 140 million people are Muslims.

The country's military rulers have outlawed public gatherings, although Islamic militant groups, like the Sipah-e-Sahaba (Guardians of the Friends of the Prophet), have been allowed to hold large meetings without interference from the authorities.

The Jan. 10 demonstration, however, was quickly quelled with police firing several rounds of tear gas and arresting 50 people, authorities and witnesses said.

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