Saroki: Shouting "God is great!" and "We are slaves of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)!" more than 50,000 people attended the funeral yesterday of a Pakistani student who died in German police custody after being accused of planning to attack a newspaper which published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

Amer Cheema, 28, was arrested in March while allegedly carrying a knife as he tried to enter the Berlin office of Axel Springer, publisher of the newspaper Die Welt, which had reprinted cartoons depicting the Prophet.

According to German police, Cheema hanged himself in his Berlin cell on May 3 using a noose made from his clothes.

Yesterday, a government helicopter carried Cheema's body to Saroki, about 150km northwest of Lahore, after his coffin arrived from Germany.

More than 50,000 people attended Cheema's funeral and dispersed peacefully, said Fayyaz Bhutta, the district mayor.

However, about three dozen people were injured in a stampede while trying to view Cheema's face.


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

Musharraf has angered many Pakistanis by supporting the US-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," he said.

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

This week, Berlin prosecutors, after conducting an autopsy on the man's body in the presence of Pakistani investigators, said there were "no indications of involvement by other persons" in his death.

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."