Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Mohammad Asghar: Daughter makes Downing Street plea

Jasmine Rana Image copyright PA
Image caption Jasmine Rana presented a petition signed by 70,000 people to the UK government London

The daughter of a man from Edinburgh who is on death row in Pakistan has met UK government officials to plead for intervention.

Jasmine Rana presented a petition signed by 70,000 people calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to secure her father's return to the UK.

Mohammed Asghar's family and solicitor met with a Foreign Office minister.

Mr Asghar, who is said to be mentally ill, is in hospital after he was shot by a prison guard last month.

He was arrested for writing letters claiming to be a prophet and convicted of blasphemy.

Mr Asghar's relatives and their lawyer, Aamer Anwar, met with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond earlier this week to discuss the situation.

They hoped to discuss the case with Mr Cameron while in London, but instead met with Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood.

Image copyright Aamer Anwar
Image caption Mohammad Asghar was shot in the back by a guard while being held in prison

'It must end now'

In a public statement, Ms Rana said that her father suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, diagnosed by UK doctors in 2010. She said that shortly after this diagnosis he travelled to Pakistan where he was arrested on blasphemy charges.

Ms Rana said: "Despite the fact that Pakistani law says that mentally ill people cannot be given the death penalty, my dad was convicted and sentenced to death at the beginning of this year.

"Ever since then we have been terrified for his safety and two weeks ago our worst fears came true when a police officer came into my dad's cell and shot him in the back. A second shot was also fired and missed."

Ms Rana said that they had been working with the Scottish and UK governments to urge the Punjab authorities to acknowledge Mr Asghar's mental illness and ensure his safety, but that their request had not been taken seriously.

She said that Punjab authorities were refusing to give them access to information about Mr Asghar's mental health and about "what really happened" in Adiala prison on the day he was shot.

Her statement ended: "My dad has spent a very long four years in prison without proper treatment for his illness. His life remains at risk for as long as he is held in Pakistan. I have come to London today to ask the prime minister to intervene to bring dad back home. It must end now - he has suffered enough."

Image caption The authorities in Pakistan have attempted to return Mr Asghar to Adiala jail

'Unconditional support'

Earlier this week, Mr Salmond offered the full support of the Scottish government in attempting to secure Mr Asghar's release.

Speaking after Wednesday's meeting with Mr Salmond, Mr Anwar said: "We welcome the unconditional support of the Scottish government, the first minister and their repeated attempts to assist Mr Asghar and his family."

He said they were "disappointed" that David Cameron had not responded to the request to meet with them when they handed in the petition.

Pakistani authorities have attempted to return Mr Asghar, who is from Edinburgh, from hospital to the same prison where he was shot.

Kate Higham, an investigator at Reprieve, described Mr Asghar as "seriously mentally ill". She said he should never have been sentenced and that he is "extremely vulnerable" in Pakistan.

She said: "It's clear that the Pakistani authorities are unwilling to acknowledge his illness or allow his lawyers and family to support his case. David Cameron must intervene as an absolute priority to ensure that Mr Asghar is properly treated by the authorities, and ultimately allowed to return home."

The Reprieve charity said that the authorities in Punjab province, where Mr Asghar is being held, have refused requests by his lawyers to access the results of an investigation into the shooting, as well as information relating to his medical assessments since the incident.

Mr Asghar was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in Edinburgh's Royal Victoria Hospital shortly before his trip to Pakistan in 2010.

He was arrested there for writing several letters claiming to be a prophet and was sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are at high risk of attack from religious extremists.

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