Pakistan doctors admit death row Scot mentally ill

Mohammad Asghar. Pic: Aamer Anwar & Co/PA Wire
Mohammad Asghar. Pic: Aamer Anwar & Co/PA Wire
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DOCTORS in Pakistan have confirmed that Leith pensioner Mohammad Asghar is mentally ill – increasing pressure for him to be released almost a year after he was sentenced to death for blasphemy.

The diagnosis from state-appointed psychiatrists is in line with those of Scottish doctors who previously submitted evidence stating that the 70-year-old retired grocery shop owner was unfit to stand trial.

And now his family and legal team are using the diagnosis to renew calls for his release, with Prime Minister David Cameron being urged to contact Pakistan leaders urgently over the case.

Mr Asghar was first arrested in Pakistan in 2010 after being accused of writing letters claiming to be the prophet Muhammad.

He was then sentenced to death despite the appeals of medical professionals.

His daughter Jasmine Rana, 41, said: “We just want dad back. They’ve recognised that he’s ill now. Why can’t they just put him on the next flight and send him back?

“The message we want to get out there is the same as its been from the start. Please David Cameron, do something now.”

Psychiatric confirmation of Mr Asghar’s mental illness comes after concerns were raised over his wellbeing after a legal team visited him in jail.

Lawyers told the judicial charity Reprieve that he had appeared “pale, dehydrated, shaking and barely lucid” and was suffering from severe delusions.

Mr Asghar is being held in the notorious Adiala jail in Rawalpindi but there are growing fears he could be at risk of vigilante attacks given blasphemy is such a highly charged accusation in Pakistan.

Last September, he was shot in jail by a policeman who was supposed to be protecting him and spent weeks recovering in hospital. The attack led to fresh demands for action from the UK Government, with Ms Rana delivering a 70,000-signature petition to the Prime Minister urging him to intervene.

“The past year has been really tough,” she said. “Every day we’re waiting for news. There’s nothing else we can do. It seems like every time we think we’re going forward, we end up taking backwards steps. We’re frustrated and my dad is extremely frustrated. He has to stay in one room, he’s not allowed to leave the room or even walk up and down the corridors for his own safety. My kids have been writing letters to him and we get a response through the Foreign Office a couple of weeks later. It’s a horrible situation.”

Family lawyer Aamer Anwar said it was imperative Britain’s political leaders step in to secure Mr Asghar’s release.

He said: “Every day that passes places Mr Asghar’s life further at risk. He is a frightened, elderly man who should be sitting at home in Edinburgh with his family.

“I hope that our PM will now act to convince Pakistani authorities to fast-track the release of a man who should never have been in court in the first place.”