Government must help mentally ill British grandfather facing blasphemy death sentence in Pakistan

January 24, 2014

The UK Government must take immediate steps to protect an elderly, mentally-ill British man sentenced to death today for blasphemy in Pakistan, legal charity Reprieve has said.

Mohammad Asghar (69), from Edinburgh, has a long and documented history of psychological ill health. Just four months before his arrest by the Pakistani authorities in September 2010, Mr Asghar was sectioned in Scotland under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, and taken to Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh. He was soon diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and kept under observation at the hospital for over a month.

He moved to Pakistan shortly after his release. Mr Asghar’s legal team at Reprieve have obtained information confirming his mental and physical ill health, and stating that he requires constant care. These include his NHS records and an affidavit signed by Dr. Jane McLennan, Senior Consultant at Royal Victoria Hospital.

Throughout his trial proceedings in Pakistan, Mr Asghar displayed evidence of ill health, becoming extremely agitated during visits by his Reprieve lawyers and suffering from persistent delusions. During this time, he was admitted to a local hospital, but despite clear evidence of mental illness, he was released back to jail, where he shares a cell with several prisoners.

In 2010 Mr Asghar suffered from a stroke which has left him with persistent left-sided weakness. The medication required is not available to him in jail. Mr Asghar’s lawyers are to seek an urgent appeal of his sentence.

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, which is supporting Mr Asghar said: “One only needs to check Mohammed Asghar’s extensive UK medical records to see that he is a seriously mentally ill man, in dire need of medical care. The evidence is clear that he is unable to defend himself in court. Worse still, he is currently being held in utterly unsuitable conditions in prison, and we are very concerned about his health. The British government must immediately take all necessary steps to secure Mr Asghar’s safety.”

ENDS

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8161 / 66 / 60 or clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk  / alice.gillham@reprieve.org.uk

2. An affidavit signed by Dr. Jane McLennan, Senior Consultant at Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh, can be read here.   Sign up to join our press mailing list.