Appeal for mentally ill OAP shot in Pakistan jail

Edinburgh grandfather Mohammad Asghar. Picture: Comp
Edinburgh grandfather Mohammad Asghar. Picture: Comp
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The family of an Edinburgh grandfather shot in a Pakistan prison where he is being held on blasphemy charges was today set to make an emotional appeal for his safety.

Mohammad Asghar, 70, is said to be in a critical condition in intensive care after apparently being shot in the back by a prison guard or police officer at Adiala prison in Rawalpindi yesterday morning.

His family said they were “extremely distressed” by what had happened. Another man who shared the cell with him is reported to have been killed in the attack.

Mr Asghar, who lived in the Capital for more than 30 years, was arrested in 2010 and sentenced to death in January under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, after writing letters - never posted - in which he claimed to be a prophet.

Judges had refused to consider clear evidence of his illness, even though he had been sectioned under the mental health act in Edinburgh shortly before travelling to Pakistan.

His family, who are due to speak at a press conference in Glasgow today, say he needs specialist care which he is not receiving in jail.

And they accused the British Government of failing Mr Asghar.

His daughter, Jasmine, 40, said: “The British ­Embassy said they had organised extra ­security for him – how could this happen?

“There are so many politicians involved. They all say they are doing something, but nothing has happened. We even wrote a letter to David Cameron and we were told he would help but nothing has happened.”

She said her mother was at her father’s beside in hospital in Pakistan.

“I haven’t been able to get hold of her yet so I’m not even sure what’s happened,” she said.

“My dad’s really old and one of the friendliest people you could meet, so he wouldn’t have been violent or anything. There’s no way he would have provoked it.”

Family solicitor Aamer Anwar has urged First Minister Alex Salmond and the Prime Minister to see Mr Asghar removed to a medical facility and transferred to the UK.

He said: “To date the British government has failed to provide any meaningful assistance to Mr Asghar or his family. It is now too late to wait for discussions behind closed doors and other delaying tactics.

“The next 48 hours will be critical for Mr Asghar’s personal safety.”

Legal charity Reprieve, who have been assisting Mr Asghar are demanding the UK Government intervene. It said he should be moved to a safe location in Pakistan, until he is well enough to travel to the UK.

Reprieve’s Maya Foa said: “David Cameron said he was ‘deeply concerned’ about his case earlier this year – but now we must see concrete action to ensure his safety.”

Mark Lazarowicz, Labour MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, has written to the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary urging them to increase efforts to secure Mr Asghar’s release.

He wrote: “This incident underlines the very real fears of his relatives and those assisting him that he is not safe in prison. This underlines to me the need for Mr Asghar to be released from custody immediately. More than ever, he now needs to be able to get the medical treatment and support which he needs. I would urge you to redouble the government’s efforts to seek the release of Mr Asghar.”