ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Pakistani police officer shot two men in jail on Thursday, killing one accused of blasphemy and wounding another condemned to death on the same charge, lawyers and an activist said. Christian pastor Zafar Bhatti was killed and 70-year-old Briton Muhammad Asghar, who has a history of mental illness, was wounded in the attack in Rawalpindi.
Bhatti, who worked to protect the human rights of the country's beleaguered Christian minority, was on trial after an Islamic leader accused him in 2012 of sending text messages derogatory to the Prophet Mohammed's mother. Family members say police investigations show the phone was registered to someone else. In recent weeks, Bhatti had received death threats in prison from both inmates and guards, his family told Pakistan-based human rights group Life for All. He was being held in the same cell as Asghar. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Muslim-majority Pakistan. Blasphemy charges are hard to fight because the law does not define what is blasphemous. Presenting the evidence can sometimes itself be considered a fresh infringement. Those accused of blasphemy are often lynched and lawyers in defending those accused of blasphemy cases have frequently been attacked.
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