Mohammad Asghar: Supporters claim mentally ill British grandfather in Pakistan jail being denied access to doctors

The 69-year-old was convicted in January this year over letters in which he claimed to be the prophet Mohammed

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The Independent Online

Independent doctors are being blocked from visiting a mentally ill British grandfather sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy, his lawyers claimed.

Supporters of Mohammad Asghar, 69, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, say that attempts for a medical specialist to see him are being refused by the prison authorities.

Mr Asghar was convicted in January this year over letters in which he claimed to be the prophet Mohammed. Four months prior to his arrest he had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act in Edinburgh where he had lived with his family for several decades.

Kate Higham of the legal charity Reprieve, said it was essential Mr Asghar now received a full medical assessment amid mounting concerns that he is at risk in his prison cell following an earlier suicide attempt.

She said: “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.

“Pakistan's Government must realise that mere words are not enough. They must allow an independent medical expert to have access to Mr Asghar without delay."

During the trial his lawyers were sacked and he was represented by appointed state counsel which failed to present vital medical evidence from his Scottish consultant - a fact acknowledged by the Pakistan authorities. Prime Minister David Cameron has voiced concern in Parliament over the case.

Last month leading British-Asian politicians, academics, human rights campaigners wrote an open letter to The Independent demanding that Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain use his discretionary powers to allow Mr Asghar to leave jail and resume treatment for paranoid schizophrenia. 

Foreign Office minister Hugh Robertson later told Parliament that the matter of his death penalty sentence had been raised by Baroness Warsi during talks with the Chief Minister of the Punjab and that the high commissioner in Islamabad met the Governor of Punjab, the former Labour MP for Glasgow Central Mohamed Sarwar - to discuss the case.

There has been a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty in Pakistan since 2008. However, lawyers fear it could take up to five years for Mr Asghar's appeal to be heard. A second British man Masud Ahmad, 72, is currently on bail in Lahore and faces three years in jail for alleged blasphemy.