The death sentence given to a Pakistani Christian convicted of blaspheming Islam and the Prophet Muhammad has been suspended by a Pakistani court.
The suspension--issued Tuesday by a two-judge panel of the Lahore High Court--remains in effect until a full appeal of the sentence is decided.
The judges' decision came after two days of Muslim-Christian clashes and the suicide of a prominent Roman Catholic bishop, who killed himself to protest the death sentence given to Ayub Massih, 26.
Massih, a Catholic, was sentenced to death in April after he was convicted of blasphemy, a capital offense in predominantly Muslim Pakistan.
Massih was charged with speaking favorably about Salman Rushdie, the writer who went into hiding nearly a decade ago after Iranian Muslim officials declared his controversial novel "The Satanic Verses" blasphemous and placed him under a death sentence.
Reports from Pakistan say the charge against Massih was part of a land dispute between Muslims and Christians.
Meanwhile, the National Council of Churches has sent a letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressing regret over the death of Bishop John Joseph and concern for Massih.
The New York-based church group described Massih as "a man medically and emotionally ill as well as innocent of the charges brought against him by religious fanatics. . . . We understand he has been deprived of legal help due to threats by these same fanatics against lawyers who might take his case."
The NCC urged repeal of the blasphemy law "in order to create fairness and equity for all religious communities" in Pakistan.