The Prime Minister has pledged his support to resolve the “appalling” case of an elderly Edinburgh man who faces the death penalty for blasphemy in Pakistan – but has come under fire for getting details wrong.w
Mohammed Asghar, who suffers from severe paranoid schizophrenia, was sentenced to death in January after penning a series of letters where he claimed to be the Prophet Mohammed.
The 70-year-old grandfather – a former grocer from Leith – is currently in hospital in Rawalpindi after he was shot by a policeman in Adiyala Jail last month.
His devastated family have called on the British Government to intervene as they believe Mr Asghar, who was sectioned briefly in Edinburgh in 2010, is not receiving the specialist care he needs behind bars.
Speaking during Prime Ministers Questions yesterday, David Cameron said he had raised the case personally at the highest levels in Pakistan.
In response to a question by Edinburgh East MP Sheila Gilmore, Mr Cameron said: “It’s appalling the way this man has been treated and it is particularly appalling that he was actually shot while in prison, supposedly being protected by the Pakistani authorities.
“We have raised this case and I have raised this case personally with the leaders of Pakistan.
“We obviously are looking at the case for a prisoner transfer, but they had to be suspended in recent years because Pakistan released prisoners that we returned to them – so there is a problem there. But we take this case very, very seriously and we are raising it at every level in Pakistan.”
But lawyer Aamer Anwer, who represents Mr Asghar’s family, told reporters afterwards that such transfers had not been suspended and could be used to return Mr Asghar to Scotland.
He said: “The Asghar family are deeply alarmed that the PM has got it so completely and utterly wrong on the question of the prisoner transfer agreement.”
Mr Anwer said he had been advised by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and First Minister Alex Salmond that a prisoner transfer agreement was an option for his client. He said: “Scotland of course has its own legal jurisdiction and the Scottish Prison Authority would deal with any prisoner transfer rather than England.
“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed this afternoon to the Scottish Government following a request from myself for clarification that the PTA is not suspended,” Mr Anwer added.
Mr Asghar’s daughter, Jasmine Rana, 40, presented a petition to the Prime Minister last week which was signed by 70,000 people including comedian Frankie Boyle and actor David Morrissey.
The family have also met with Mr Salmond who called for Mr Asghar to be transferred to a Scottish prison.