Amnesty plea over Mohammad Asghar blasphemy case

Pakistan's blasphemy laws have attracted protests. Picture: Getty
Pakistan's blasphemy laws have attracted protests. Picture: Getty
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HUMAN rights leaders have called for the immediate release of an Edinburgh man with severe mental health problems who has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy.

Mohammad Asghar was condemned for sending letters to government officials claiming to be the Muslim prophet Mohammed.

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Polly Truscott, Amnesty’s deputy Asia Pacific director, said: “Mohammad Asghar is now facing the gallows simply for writing a series of letters.

“He does not deserve punishment. No-one should be charged on the basis of this sort of conduct.

“Pakistan must immediately release Mohammad Asghar and reform its blasphemy laws to ensure this will not happen again.”

During the closed trial at Adiala Prison in Rawalpindi, Asghar’s defence team argued that the 68-year-old was suffering from mental illness, after a doctor treating him in Edinburgh said in a letter dated June 2011 that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and believed the Pakistani and British governments were trying to control him.

But prosecutors disputed that he was mentally ill.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We strongly oppose the death penalty in all circumstances.

“As a minimum we would urge the Pakistani authorities to to abide by the moratorium they have on the death penalty.

“Our thoughts are with Mr Asghar’s family at this difficult time.”