updated 5/13/2006 5:44:33 AM ET 2006-05-13T09:44:33

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

Amer Cheema, 28, was arrested in March as he tried to enter the office of Axel Springer, the publisher of Die Welt.

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

The reprinting touched off even more 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.

According to German police, Cheema hanged himself in his Berlin cell on May 3 using a noose made from his clothes. On Saturday, his coffin arrived at Lahore airport from Germany and a government helicopter carried the body to Cheema’s family in Saroki, a village 90 miles northwest of Lahore.

Chanting “God is great!” and “We are slaves of Prophet Muhammad!”, more than 50,000 people attended the funeral, dispersing peacefully afterward, said Fayyaz Bhutta, the district mayor.

Cheema’s father, Nazir Cheema, had urged mourners to remain peaceful.

“I request all of you to please just pray for my son. Don’t harm any one. Don’t damage anything,” he told a crowd that gathered at his home earlier Saturday.

On Friday, Cheema’s sister, Kishwar Zuhair, dismissed the German claim that Cheema had committed suicide.

Germany expressed regret over Cheema’s death but said an autopsy conducted in the presence of Pakistani investigators showed no indication of involvement by other persons in his death.

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