PM voices concerns for Edinburgh man on death row in Pakistan


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An Edinburgh grandfather ,sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy, is in urgent need of mental health treatment.

According to campaigners at Reprieve, they have serious concerns about the mental wellbeing of Mohammed Asghar, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He has been convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan and faces the death penalty.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said that he is “deeply concerned” and that the UK was taking the case “very seriously”.

Lawyers for Mr Asghar finally gained access to their client this week and as a result, were able to get the necessary documents signed so that he can file his appeal against the sentence.

APPEAL: Protest have been held across Pakistan since Mr Mohammed Asghar’s detainment

APPEAL: Protest have been held across Pakistan since Mr Mohammed Asghar’s detainment

But they told the charity they have concerns for his mental health and say that, despite his diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, prison medical staff remain unaware of his serious psychiatric illness and are not giving him the appropriate medication.

During their visit, it was “clear” he was in very poor health and they have stressed it is crucial he receives the expert medical treatment he urgently needs and said he appeared “pale, dehydrated, shaking and barely lucid”.

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “We are extremely worried about Mr Asghar’s mental health, which appears to have seriously deteriorated.

“We are also extremely concerned by the reports that he is not being given the correct medication for his illness, putting him in a perilous position.

“We hope that the authorities in Pakistan and the UK will take all necessary steps to ensure that he gets the expert treatment he needs without delay.”

The Pakistan High Commission in London has said the mental health of Mr Asghar should be taken into account when his appeal against the death sentence for blasphemy is heard. It issued a statement as his family pleaded that he not be allowed to “die in jail”.

The Commission said it had received “messages of concern” as Mr Asghar’s family in Edinburgh said they were growing increasingly desperate over the plight of the 68-year-old retired city shopkeeper who has already spent three years in prison in Pakistan.

Mr Asghar was condemned to death by a court in Rawalpindi last week after he wrote letters, which were never posted, which he signed as “prophet” Mohammad.

The court was not told of warnings from a leading Edinburgh psychiatrist that Mr Asghar, who lived in the Capital for more than 30 years, has a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and has previously experienced delusions that he is a “holy man”.

The High Commission said it had received “pleas for leniency from UK residents and politicians, including senior Foreign Office minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

Mr Asghar’s family called on the British Government to help to bring him home, where he could be treated for his mental illness. The family have launched a petition calling on Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond to “intervene in the strongest possible terms to help save the life of a vulnerable British man”.

RAGE: Many Pakistanis feel strongly against the country’s blasphemy laws

RAGE: Many Pakistanis feel strongly against the country’s blasphemy laws

The family said he had already attempted suicide unsuccessfully.

Labour’s Douglas Alexander has written to Foreign Secretary William Hague, asking him to make immediate representations to Pakistan’s government over the case.

Lawyers fear they will not be able to see him in prison until it is too late to get him to sign a secondary power of attorney and lodge an appeal. Under Pakistan law this must be lodged with the court seven days after conviction.

Baroness Warsi said she was “deeply concerned” by the case, adding: “I am personally raising this in the strongest possible terms with the Pakistani government, as are officials here and in Islamabad.”

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