An elderly Briton Muhammad Asghar was sentenced to death in Rawalpindi, Pakistan after a court found him guilty of blasphemy. His lawyers have sought leniency saying he has a history of mental illness but a medical panel rejected the request. The 70-year old was arrested in 2010 after he wrote letters to a number of people claiming to be a prophet.
A legal charity called Reprieve has asked the British government to help Asghar who is from Edinburgh, Scotland. “Mr Asghar is in dire need of medical care. The evidence is clear that he is unable to defend himself in court. Worse still, he is currently being held in utterly unsuitable conditions in prison, and we are very concerned about his health,” said Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team.
It is believed that Asghar suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and he has undergone treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh in the past. However, the court in Pakistan refused to accept his medical reports.
“Asghar claimed to be a prophet even inside court. He confessed it in front of the judge,” said Javed Gul, a government prosecutor. Asghar’s lawyers countered that they were forcibly removed from the case by the judge and Asghar’s proceedings were carried out behind closed doors.
The controversial blasphemy laws in Pakistan carry a potential death sentence for those who are convicted of insulting Islam. The British High Commission said, “We can't give any information, other than we are aware of the case.”