The family of a second British man facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan said yesterday that he is entirely innocent and called for more to be done to allow him to return to the UK.
Masud Ahmad, 72, is currently on bail in Lahore after he was allegedly tricked into publicly reading from the Koran – an act which is forbidden for members of the minority Ahmadi sect to which he belongs. He now faces three years in jail.
Mr Ahmad’s son Abbas, 39, who lives in Glasgow along with a brother and two sisters, said their father had been targeted by powerful figures linked to a right-wing religious group and that he now faced losing the property where he practised as a homeopath.
“We are concerned he will never see his nine grandchildren but we are more concerned about his life. We know what happens when these sort of cases come up,” said Mr Ahmad.
Following his arrest in November more than 600 people protested outside the police station. Under Pakistan law it is an offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim. Each year dozens of members of the sect are charged with breaching religious laws whilst they and other minorities are also at risk of outbreaks of sectarian violence in the country if they are deemed to have committed blasphemy.
The case comes a week after a court in Rawalpindi sentenced to death another Briton, Muhammed Asghar, 69, who is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, after he was accused of claiming to be the Prophet Muhammed in unsent letters. Yesterday lawyers for Mr Asghar filed an appeal against his conviction and death sentence for blasphemy at the High Court.
The retired shopkeeper from Edinburgh is said to be in very poor health and not receiving treatment for his severe mental illness. David Cameron was among senior figures to highlight the case this week. The Prime Minister said he was “deeply concerned” over the Pakistani court’s failure to include medical evidence in the trial.
Mr Ahmad said his father had been released from prison on bail and was now in secure accommodation pending trial although it was not known when the case would be heard and he faced a long and uncertain wait.
“We want to bring him back to Britain,” he said. In Pakistan there is no justice. Someone has made a false case and they have sent him to prison for nothing. The last month we have been so worried about him. They have no proof that he was pretending to be a Muslim. Everyone can read the Koran – it is for everyone not just Muslims. It is a holy book just like the Bible,” he added.
The quietly-spoken widower was arrested after he was recorded on a mobile phone reading from the Koran by two men posing as patients. Amnesty International said he was maliciously targeted because of his religion.
The men asked him questions about the relationship between Islam and the Ahmadi sect which was declared non-Muslim in Pakistan in 1974 because it proclaims its 19th century founder as a prophet.
Mr Ahmad, who previously worked as a professional photographer lived and worked in London for 22 years. He moved back to Pakistan in 1982 and recently underwent an operation to remove a tumour. A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We will continue to provide consular assistance to both Mr Ahmad and his family.”