Cameron ‘has window’ to help Pakistan jail OAP

Lawyers for an Edinburgh prisoner shot in Pakistan have repeated calls for the Prime Minister to intervene during “a window of opportunity” as it emerged he will spend a further two days in hospital being treated for his injuries.

Tuesday, 30th September 2014, 9:33 am
Mohammad Asghar. Picture: PA

Mohammad Asghar, 70, was targeted in Adiala prison in Rawalpindi last week, where he faced the death penalty after being convicted under blasphemy laws.

Legal action charity Reprieve said Mr Asghar, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, must not be sent back to jail but should remain in a secure medical facility where he can receive treatment in safety.

The charity said David Cameron now has a “short window of opportunity” to intervene.

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Mr Asghar, from Leith , was jailed in January after writing letters to a number of people claiming to be the Prophet Mohammed.

He received surgery after he was shot in the back by a guard on Thursday morning and remains in hospital.

People accused or convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan face a high level of risk from attacks by religious extremists, according to Reprieve.

An appeal has been lodged against his conviction, with lawyers pointing out that judges did not consider evidence of his mental illness.

Reprieve spokeswoman Maya Foa said: “Mr Asghar’s two extra days in hospital mean there is a short window of opportunity here for David Cameron to step in and ensure his safety.

“Mr Asghar is an extremely vulnerable man and he must not be sent back to prison, where there are very real threats to his life.

“The British Government must ensure that he is held in a secure medical facility where he can receive the treatment he so desperately needs, both for his recent injuries and his existing mental illness.”

Mr Asghar’s daughter, Jasmine Rana, 40, last week issued a plea to the British Government to do everything it could to ensure her father’s safety.

She said the family were living their “worst nightmare” and described her father as “the sweetest and nicest person you will ever meet”, who came to the UK when he was 16 and went on to become a successful businessman and millionaire, and who also opened a school in Lahore, Pakistan, and an orphanage in Rawalpindi.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are deeply concerned about the case of Mr Asghar, who was shot while on detention in prison in Pakistan.

“Consular officials visited Mr Asghar over the course of the weekend and continue to support him and remain in close touch with the hospital and prison authorities.

“We have previously raised our concerns about his case, including through the former foreign secretary, and continue to do so at a senior level.

“It is crucial that concerns about Mr Asghar’s safety and mental health are addressed and also taken into consideration during his appeal.

“We are in regular contact with Mr Asghar’s family members in the UK and Pakistan.

“The Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael, has also spoken to Mr Asghar’s daughter and expressed our concerns at his situation and the distress that this is causing his family.”