Mohammad Asghar
Mohammad Asghar

A mentally ill Scottish man sentenced to death in Pakistan on blasphemy charges has been denied medical assistance.

Mohammad Asghar, 69, was accused of writing letters to police officers claiming to be a prophet.

However, Asghar, who is from Edinburgh, Scotland has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He was admitted to hospital in his home town, legal charity Reprieve reported.

The British Government has raised Asghar's case with Pakistan on several occasions. Prime Minister David Cameron said that "the Pakistani authorities can be in no doubt of the seriousness with which we take these developments."

Reprieve investigator Kate Higham said: "The Pakistani authorities are refusing to grant access to an independent doctor to carry out a full medical and psychiatric evaluation.

"The Pakistani Government itself has said that the issue of Asghar's mental health was 'perhaps not brought out in the proceedings of the case,' and expressed hope that 'justice would [now] be done on the grounds of his mental infirmity.'

"Yet without a proper medical evaluation, it is hard to see how this will be possible. More urgently, the lack of such an evaluation also means that Mr Asghar continues to be denied appropriate medical treatment in prison – despite having been diagnosed while in the UK as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Petition platform Charge.org is promoting  a petition to save Asghar. 

The petition was started by Chair of the Scottish Secular Society Caroline Lynch. 

According to Pakistani Penal Code, "Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both."

In 1982, a clause prescribed life imprisonment for "wilful" desecration of the Koran.

In 1986, a separate clause was inserted to punish blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and the penalty recommended was "death, or imprisonment for life".