Thousands echo daughter’s Downing Street call to bring back mentally-ill Brit Mohammed Asghar

October 17, 2014

Some 70,000 people have signed a petition to be presented at Downing Street at 3.30 today (16th) by Jasmine Rana – the daughter of mentally-ill Brit Mohammed Asghar, who was recently shot in Pakistan while held on blasphemy charges.

The petition, signed by Frankie Boyle, David Morrissey and Al Murray among others, calls on Prime Minister David Cameron to secure Mr Asghar’s return to the UK.

Mr Asghar, 70, from Edinburgh, suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and was given a death sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan in 2014. Two weeks ago, he was targeted by a police officer while on death row in Adiala, a maximum-security jail in Rawalpindi. He has been hospitalised ever since the incident.

On Wednesday it was revealed that the authorities in Punjab province, where Mr Asghar is being held, have refused requests by Mr Asghar’s lawyers to access the results of an investigation into the shooting, as well as information relating to medical assessments of him since the incident. That information could support arguments that Mr Asghar’s sentence is illegal on the grounds of his mental illness.

The refusal has added to concerns voiced by Mr Asghar’s family that he has little prospect of fair treatment or protection while he remains in Pakistan. Violent attacks by extremists on people accused of blasphemy, including senior political figures, are common in the country.

Reprieve director Maya Foa has today written to David Cameron urging him not to allow the calls to free Asghar to go “unheard and unheeded”, and raising the continued refusal of the Punjab Government to acknowledge Mr Asghar’s mental illness. On Wednesday, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond pledged to intervene with the Prime Minister.

Kate Higham, an investigator at Reprieve said: “Now is the time for the Prime Minister to take action. Mr Asghar is seriously mentally-ill and should never have been sentenced in the first place – and he is extremely vulnerable while he remains in Pakistan. It’s clear that the Pakistani authorities are unwilling to acknowledge his illness or allow his lawyers and family to support his case. David Cameron must intervene as an absolute priority to ensure that Mr Asghar is properly treated by the authorities, and ultimately allowed to return home.”