Celebrities call for release of Brit facing blasphemy death sentence in Pakistan

October 1, 2014

High-profile figures including Stephen Fry, Frankie Boyle and David Morrissey have called on the Prime Minister to intervene to protect Mohammad Asghar, a British grandfather who was last week shot in a Pakistani prison while awaiting a death sentence for ‘blasphemy’.

Mohammad Asghar, a 70-year-old from Edinburgh who suffers from severe mental illness, was sentenced to death in January on blasphemy charges. Last Thursday, he was shot by a policeman in his cell in Adiala prison, Rawalpindi.

He is currently in intensive care, but concerns have been raised for his safety by legal charity Reprieve, after it was revealed that the Pakistani authorities planned to return him to the prison where he was shot.

People accused or convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan face a high level of risk from attacks by religious extremists. Speaking to the BBC on Monday, Mr Asghar’s daughter Jasmine called on the British Government to “do everything they can to ensure that as soon as he is well enough to travel, our father is brought back to the UK where he will be safe.”

That call was this week backed by celebrities such as Fry, who tweeted: “Govt must not let mentally ill Brit Mohammed Asghar be returned to prison. They must do all they can to get him home.”

Comedian Frankie Boyle tweeted: “70yo Scotsman Mohammed Asghar shot, under PK death sentence for blasphemy, surely government should get him home”, while Al Murray urged his followers to sign a 38 Degrees petition for the Prime Minister to bring Mr Asghar home, saying it “means a lot to me.”

Writing in the Independent, David Morrissey said: “It is surely not too much to ask that the British government exert every political sinew to protect him at this desperate stage.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “David Cameron has a crucial window of opportunity to demand Mohammad Asghar is kept safe, given the urgent medical attention he needs, and ultimately returned home. Mr Asghar is a mentally ill grandfather who should never have been imprisoned, let alone given a death sentence and attacked by the very people tasked with his protection. The Prime Minister should listen to these growing calls, and take action before it is too late.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8160 donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk / clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk alice.gillham@reprieve.org.uk, or see www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/mohammadasghar/