Lawyers appeal death sentence for mentally-ill British grandfather
January 31, 2014
Lawyers acting for Mohammed Asghar, a British grandfather suffering from severe mental illness, have today (31st Jan) filed an appeal against his conviction and death sentence for blasphemy at Pakistan’s High Court.
The appeal challenges Asghar’s conviction on a number of grounds, including the court’s failure to consider any evidence of his mental health problems, which are detailed extensively in NHS records from the UK.
Mr Asghar’s lawyers say that the appeal may take up to five years to be heard by Pakistan’s High Court, owing to a huge backlog of cases. Having visited Mr Asghar yesterday, they fear that his poor health means he is ill-equipped for a lengthy wait. Mr Asghar remains severely mentally-ill, they report, but the prison authorities have not yet taken the necessary steps to provide him with the specialist medical treatment he urgently requires.
Mr Asghar’s case this week attracted attention from Westminster and the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, David Cameron said he was “deeply concerned”, and that “the Pakistani authorities can be in no doubt of the seriousness with which we take these developments.”
Meanwhile, a motion tabled in the Scottish Parliament calling on the Pakistani authorities urgently to review Mr Asghar’s case has received cross-party support.
Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “We have grave concerns about the ongoing lack of appropriate medical treatment for Mr Asghar, and hope that the British and Pakistani Governments will do everything they can to ensure that he receives treatment without further delay. I trust that both governments are exploring every possible option to ensure that it does not take five years to see the effects of this terrible miscarriage of justice reversed.”
Notes to editors
2. Prime Minister David Cameron was responding to a question from Labour MP for Edinburgh East Sheila Gilmore:
Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): Mohammad Asghar, who lived in the UK for 40 years and has family in my constituency, has recently been convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in Pakistan. Mr Asghar was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2010 and was treated in Edinburgh, but the judges refused to take that into account. I wrote to the Foreign Secretary yesterday, but can the Prime Minister now assure me that he and his Ministers are doing everything they can to support this man and see him returned to the UK, where he can get the treatment he needs? The Prime Minister: I can certainly give the hon. Lady the assurance she asks for. I, too, am deeply concerned about this death sentence passed on Mr Mohammad Asghar. As she knows, it is our long-standing policy to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances, and the Pakistani authorities can be in no doubt about the seriousness with which we view these developments. Baroness Warsi spoke to the Chief Minister of the Punjab on Monday, our high commission in Islamabad continues to raise this case with the relevant authorities and Foreign Office officials are meeting Pakistan high commission officials in London today to discuss his and other cases. We take this extremely seriously and are making that clear at every level. 3. The full text of the Scottish Parliament motion can be accessed here.