Legal bid in Pakistan blasphemy case

Mohammad Asghar. Pic: comp
Mohammad Asghar. Pic: comp
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Lawyers for a mentally-ill Edinburgh man shot in a Pakistan prison have filed an emergency application to keep him in hospital following reports he is to be sent back to the jail.

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

He is in intensive care in hospital and lawyers claim his health has deteriorated since the shooting.

They have now lodged an application with the court in Lahore, requesting that plans to move him from hospital back to jail be stayed “to ensure his safety”.

It is hoped the court will respond within the next 48 hours.

Mr Asghar 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 the care of medics.

Aamer Anwar, the solicitor acting for the Asghar family, said Mr Asghar developed a high fever overnight and it is feared a chest infection may be spreading to his left lung.

Doctors have recommended that he be kept in hospital for close observation and treatment for a further 72 hours.

Mr Anwar said: “Our Pakistani lawyers filed an application today asking that he be kept in hospital, where he is at a reduced risk of further attack and can be treated for his injuries and mental illness.

“An emergency application has been lodged as Mr Asghar’s health has deteriorated following the shooting.”

He added: “The Pakistani authorities are unable to guarantee Mr Asghar’s security and we are requesting that he be moved to a secure military medical facility where he can continue to be treated in safety.”

Mr Asghar’s family and the legal charity Reprieve are calling on the British Government to do more to ensure that his life is not put at further risk.

Mr Anwar said: “To date the Asghar family has not had any response from David Cameron despite a personal plea to him for help. Mr Cameron must realise that Mr Asghar’s life is hanging by a thread.

“Mr Asghar has been in custody and the FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) has failed to bring him home.

“A 70-year-old severely mentally-ill Muslim might not be photogenic enough for a ‘national outrage’ but David Cameron could save Mr Asghar’s life if he made a personal intervention by simply asking the Pakistani authorities to allow its most senior psychiatrist access to Mr Asghar.

“This assessment would prove that Mohammad Asghar was always unfit to stand trial.”

Maya Foa, of Reprieve, said: “Mr Asghar has suffered a near fatal attack at the hands of the people who were supposed to protect his security.

“He is currently in hospital being treated for the injuries he sustained and for his severe mental illness, which has been exacerbated by the recent attempt at his life.

“It is unthinkable that Mr Asghar should be removed from the hospital - let alone be taken back to the very prison where he was attacked.

“David Cameron must step in and protect the life of this vulnerable British citizen without delay.”

The Foreign Office said they are “deeply concerned” about the case and said consular officials visited Mr Asghar over the weekend and continue to support him.

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

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

He said the FCO is in regular contact with Mr Asghar’s family members in the UK and Pakistan.