The 69-year-old’s family has claimed he was accused over a property dispute and urged the British government to intervene.
The family of a mentally-ill Pakistani-British man who was sentenced to death in Rawalpindi for blasphemy have urged London to intervene for his release.
A court sentenced Mohammad Asghar last week for writing letters in which he claimed to be a prophet of Islam. The special court inside Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail, where Asghar is being held, rejected defense claims that Asghar has mental health problems.
But a statement from the British charity Reprieve, which is helping Asghar’s family, said the 69-year-old was detained by authorities in Scotland in 2010 because of mental problems and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
“We are really upset and concerned that they will never release him and that he will die in jail. He has already attempted suicide unsuccessfully,” Asghar’s family said in the statement released on Monday. “We just want him back home where hopefully he can be treated for and recover from his mental illness. We urge the British Government to intervene and bring him home to us where he will be safe.”
Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population is Muslim and insulting Islam’s Prophet can carry the death penalty. But the country has had a de facto moratorium on civilian hangings since 2008 and only one person, a soldier convicted by court martial, has been hanged since then.
Pakistan’s tough blasphemy laws have attracted criticism from rights groups, who say they are frequently abused to settle personal scores. The family claims the allegations against Asghar stem from a property dispute with one of his tenants. Reprieve also complained that Asghar’s legal team had been denied access to him since his conviction.