8,000 rally in Pakistan against rape law changes

Thousands of activists of a religious coalition rallied Sunday in the southern Pakistan city of Karachi to condemn the government over amendments in the country's controversial Islamic rape laws. Pakistan's Parliament recently approved a bill to change the 1979 Hudood Ordinance, a law based on Islamic principles that requires rape victims to produce four witnesses to the crime. But the move has angered many conservative Muslims. "We will not let Pakistan become secular," the supporters of a coalition of Islamic groups chanted. The change in the law was prompted by human rights activists, who demanded the ordinance be repealed, saying it failed to help victims of rape get justice and made prosecution of attackers difficult. The Parliament, dominated by Musharraf supporters, also passed legislation that would drop the death penalty for sex outside of marriage, an act still punishable with five years in prison or a fine of 10,000 rupees (US$165; €129).