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PM asked to save Scot on death row for blasphemy

An anti-blasphemy demonstration in Lahore, Pakistan in March last year. Politicians have historically been reluctant to deal with the country's controversial legislation. Picture: Getty

An anti-blasphemy demonstration in Lahore, Pakistan in March last year. Politicians have historically been reluctant to deal with the country's controversial legislation. Picture: Getty

  • by CLAIRE GARDNER
 

The family of a Scottish man with a history of mental illness, who has been sentenced to death in Pakistan, has made an urgent appeal yesterday for the UK government to intervene and help him.

Muhammad Asghar, 69, who lived in Edinburgh for nearly 30 years before moving back to Pakistan in 2010, was convicted of blasphemy by a court in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, last Thursday, after claiming he was a prophet.

Mr Asghar’s lawyers in Pakistan, who are appealing the conviction, said they have been denied access to him in prison.

The lawyers have until this Thursday to lodge an appeal, and to do so they need Mr Asghar to sign paperwork.

His family said he was treated for paranoid schizophrenia in Edinburgh before returning to Pakistan in 2010.

Mr Asghar, who ran a string of grocery stores in Midlothian, was arrested several months after his return to Pakistan, after a disgruntled tenant handed police letters Mr Asghar had written, signing himself as “The Prophet”.

During his trial, the court refused to accept his UK medical reports.

In a statement released yesterday, Mr Ashgar’s family called on the UK and Scottish governments to help secure his release.

It said: “Our father, a British citizen, has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy, despite being confirmed a paranoid schizophrenic by a doctor who was treating him in the UK.

“We, his family, want him released by the Pakistani government so he can be treated appropriately for his medical condition.”

The statement – released through the legal charity Reprieve, which has been assisting Mr Asghar – added: “By the time the trial concluded he had already been in horrific jail conditions sharing a cell with several other men for three years.

“Throughout this time he had minimum access to medication that might have helped his mental illness.

“We are really upset and concerned that they will never release him, and that he will die in jail. We just want him back home.

“We urge the British government to do everything they can to make sure that he is safe.”

A petition has been launched on change.org addressed to Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond, calling for Mr Asghar’s release.

In an interview with The Scotsman yesterday, his lawyers said they were increasingly concerned for Mr Asghar’s safety, after finding he was sharing a cell with five men, who they fear might try to attack him.

They also highlighted the fact that Mr Asghar was in the same prison as Mumtaz Qadri, the police bodyguard who killed Punjab governor Salman Taseer in 2011 because he objected to Mr Taseer’s calls to amend the country’s blasphemy law.

The Foreign Office said: “We are aware Mohammed Asghar is facing the death penalty. We have continuously made representations to the Pakistan government on behalf of Mr Asghar and we will continue to do so.”

SEE ALSO:

Scotsman leader: Appeal for clemency over Pakistan blasphemy case

 
 
 

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