Appeal to Pakistan leader to free Mohammed Ashgar

Appeal to Pakistan's president Mamnoon Hussain.Picture: Getty
Appeal to Pakistan's president Mamnoon Hussain.Picture: Getty
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A leading group of politicians and academics have called for the release of an Edinburgh man sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy, so that he can receive mental health treatment.

In an open letter to Pakistan president Mamnoon Hussain, the group raise concerns about Mohammad Asghar’s wellbeing and have asked him to intervene.

Mr Asghar was arrested in 2010 in Rawalpindi, near Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, for claiming to be the Prophet Mohammed.

His family says he suffers from mental illness and was treated for paranoid schizophrenia in Edinburgh before returning to Pakistan in

2010.

He was convicted last month and his family immediately launched a campaign for him to be released from custody.

His lawyers said he appeared “pale, dehydrated, shaking and barely lucid” during a recent visit, prompting fears his condition has seriously

deteriorated.

Signatories to the open letter include Labour’s shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan, Scottish human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, academics from the Muslim Institute, the Islamic Society of Britain and a host of charities.

The letter reads: “Like so many British Pakistanis, Mr Asghar was a successful businessman and pillar of the community who lived for many years in the UK where, through a lifetime of hard work, he helped promote the bonds of friendship and understanding between his native and adopted countries.

“We the undersigned are concerned that his recovery from illness is impossible whilst he remains detained at Adiala jail, where his lawyers fear he is in danger of taking his own life.

“We respectfully urge you to consider using your discretionary powers as President to pardon Mr Asghar and to allow him to be released from jail so that he can receive his treatment and be reunited with his loving family.”

The blasphemy complaint was brought against Mr Asghar by a tenant with whom he was having a dispute.

His family has appealed to the UK Government to do everything it can to make sure he is safe.

They said: “We are really upset and concerned that they will never release him and that he will die in jail.”

A petition on change.org, addressed to Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond, is also calling for Mr Asghar’s

release.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it has continuously made representations to the Pakistan government on behalf of Mr Asghar and would continue to do so.

The Scottish Government said it was in touch with the Foreign Office.