AN MP has promised to step up pressure on the UK government over the case of Leith shopkeeper Mohammed Asghar who has now been on death row in Pakistan for two years.
The pensioner, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was first arrested in 2010 after being accused of writing letters claiming to be the prophet Muhammad. He was sentenced to death on a charge of blasphemy in January 2014 despite appeals by medical professionals.
I’m terrified for him. I can’t sleep, I wake up crying. My children forget what he looks like.Jasmine Rana
His plight was highlighted in the House of Commons, more than 70,000 people signed a petition calling for his release and David Cameron raised his case with Pakistan’s prime minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif during talks at Downing Street in December 2014. But Mr Asghar is still being held.
Edinburgh North and Leith SNP MP Deidre Brock said: “Mr Asghar has suffered a six-year ordeal that is beyond understanding for most of us. I’ll be speaking to the Foreign Office to ask what is being done to help him and what more can be done.
“To have a gentleman with mental health issues stuck in any jail for so long is horrendous but to have him so far away from his family as well makes it worse. The Prime Minister said two years ago that he was taking the case seriously – it’s time to get action to match those words.”
Mr Asghar left Edinburgh for Pakistan in 2010, shortly after being discharged from the Capital’s Royal Victoria Hospital, where he had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act. But the court which convicted him was not told details of his health problems. He was only moved to a secure hospital after he was shot and injured in Adiala prison in Rawalpindi.
He is reported to be held in a windowless room and only allowed to leave to walk the corridor for half an hour each day. He is also said to have lost his sight so can no longer read newspapers to keep himself occupied.
His daughter Jasmine Rana has renewed her call for her father to be allowed home.
She said: “I honestly thought that the government would take action and get him back.
“David Cameron said he would intervene. The Foreign Office send me e-mails on how he is, with messages from him. He always tells us not to worry, just to get on with our lives. But that’s him trying to protect us.
“We are still no further forward in getting dad back where he belongs.
“I’m terrified for him. I can’t sleep, I wake up crying. My children forget what he looks like. Two of his brothers have died since he’s been in jail. Someone has to help him now.”
Fears for Mr Asghar increased after Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty last year. Campaign group Reprieve said more than 300 people had been executed since then.
The Foreign Office has insisted his case remains a high priority.