Blasphemy-case family calls on UK Government

31 January 2014

PA

"Deeply concerned": the Government was doing everything it could to bring Mohammed Asghar home, David Cameron said during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday. ". . . as you know, it's our long-standing policy to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances", he said

"Deeply concerned": the Government was doing everything it could to bring Mohammed Asghar home, David Cameron said during Prime Minister's...

THE family of a pensioner with schizophrenia, who has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy, is calling on the UK government to intervene.

Mohammed Asghar, a 68-year-old from Edinburgh, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2010. He is currently resident in Pakistan, where he was convicted of blasphemy three years ago. The charity Reprieve reports that, during his trial, his legal team was replaced by State counsel, which failed to raise the issue of his schizophrenia, despite being given access to the extensive medical evidence available from the UK.

In a statement issued on Monday, Mr Asghar's family said: "We are really upset and concerned that they will never release him and that he will die in jail. He has already attempted suicide unsuccessfully... We urge the British Government to intervene and bring him home."

On Monday evening, the Pakistan High Commission issued a statement expressing hope "that in his appeal before higher appellate court, Mohammad Asghar's lawyers would be able to forcefully plead his case of mental condition on the basis of his previous history in UK. It is also hoped that justice would be done on the grounds of his mental infirmity."

On Friday, the Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi, said: "It is the longstanding policy of Her Majesty's Government to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been providing consular support to Mr Asghar, and we will be raising our concerns in the strongest possible terms with the Pakistani government."

Last month, the Federal Sharia Court of Pakistan ordered the government of Pakistan to change the blasphemy law to make the death penalty the only lawful punishment. The government has until Tuesday to either amend the penal code or appeal against the order.

 

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