Death-row Scot ‘may be transferred to UK jail’

Mohammad Asghar was shot by a 'radicalised' prison guard. Picture: PA
Mohammad Asghar was shot by a 'radicalised' prison guard. Picture: PA
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THE governor of Punjab has said “all necessary measures” are being taken to guarantee the safety of a mentally ill Scot on death row, and raised the possibility of a prison transfer to the UK.

Mohammad Asghar, from Edinburgh, was jailed for blasphemy earlier this year and is recovering in hospital after being shot by a prison guard.

Speaking to The Scotsman, Mohammad Sarwar, the former Glasgow MP who is now governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, said he regretted what had happened to Mr Asghar and was working to ensure his safety.

Lawyers acting for Mr Asghar have repeatedly called on Prime Minister David Cameron to 
intervene personally in the case and bring the grandfather home.

The 70-year-old, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, was sentenced to death under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws after writing a series of letters in which he claimed to be the Prophet Muhammad. Mr Asghar has filed an appeal against his sentence, but it may take several years to reach court.

Last month, he was injured after being shot by a guard at the Adiala prison in Rawalpindi, where he was being held. Another inmate is said to have been killed during the incident.

Mr Sarwar said: “We are trying to find some kind of middle way where we can resolve this situation within the constitution and the laws of this country. I believe there are going to be a few doctors who are going to examine [Mr Asghar] again.”

He said legal experts were looking at ways of resolving the case to the “satisfaction” of Mr Asghar’s family, including a possible prisoner transfer.

“It has to be some kind of legal way, but I can assure you that we are giving this matter a great deal of interest and care,” he said. “I am certain the government will take all necessary measures to ensure his safety.

“It is very difficult to intervene in judicial matters in this country, but I have met Alex Salmond and have seen the documents from doctors in Scotland. I think there’s an appeal, and I’m hopeful things will be resolved.”

Asked he if regretted the way Mr Asghar’s case had been handled, he said: “I do.”

On 17 October, Mr Asghar’s daughter, Jasmine Rana, travelled from Edinburgh to hand in a 70,000-signature petition to No10, calling on the Prime Minister to intervene. She had hoped to meet Mr Cameron but instead held talks with Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are deeply concerned about the case of Mr Asghar. Consular officials continue to monitor his situation and are liaising with the hospital and prison.

“We continue to work closely with the Pakistani government on this case. We have raised at the highest levels our desire that Mr Asghar’s personal security is safeguarded, that he is able to access the vital treatment that his medical condition requires, and that there is an urgent investigation into what happened.

“We have previously raised our concerns about his wider case, including through the former foreign secretary, and will continue to do so.”