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