Mohammed Asghar case: Mentally ill Briton sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy continues to deteriorate

Paranoid schizophrenic Mohammed Asghar is described as “pale, dehydrated, shaking and barely lucid"

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The Independent Online

An elderly British man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia who has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy is in urgent need of medical attention and is in a “perilous position” as his condition continues to deteriorate left untreated, it was claimed.

Mohammed Asghar was finally visited by his lawyers yesterday allowing them to launch an appeal on his behalf. Their efforts to see him had previously been blocked by the prison authorities.

However, the 69-year-old grandfather from Edinburgh, who is sharing a cell with a number of other inmates, was described as appearing “pale, dehydrated, shaking and barely lucid". He is still suffering from severe delusions associated with his diagnosed mental condition.

Observers said staff at the Adiala jail in Rawalpindi were unaware of the serious nature of his illness and claimed he is not being provided with appropriate medication or care.

Hopes that the retired shopkeeper’s sentence could soon be overturned were raised after the Pakistan High Commission in London said that medical evidence not presented at the original trial should form part of the appeal. However, it could take up to five years for the case to be heard.

“The case is being thoroughly investigated so that an innocent person does not become victim of misplaced judicial process,” the High Commission said in a statement which distanced the government from the court’s ruling. The move followed high level representations from the British Government including Senior Foreign Office Minister, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

Mr Asghar’s daughter Sofina Bilal, 33, has written to David Cameron and Scots First Minister Alex Salmond asking them to intervene and save her father who it is feared could die in jail either as a result of suicide or murder by extremist inmates.

The businessman was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia after being detained under the Mental Health Act in 2010. Following his release from hospital he travelled to Pakistan where he became embroiled in a property dispute with a local man who handed in unsent letters in which Mr Asghar claimed to be the Prophet Mohammed.

A leading Scottish expert on psychiatric illness in older people said his delusions were compatible with his condition which had developed after he suffered a stroke. His legal team was removed during the trial and replaced with a state-appointed counsel who did not include the detailed medical assessment supplied by his doctor in his defence.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at the international human rights charity Reprieve  said: “We are extremely worried about Mr Asghar’s mental health, which appears to have seriously deteriorated. We are also extremely concerned by the reports that he is not being given the correct medication for his illness, putting him in a perilous position. 

“We hope that the authorities in Pakistan and the UK will take all necessary steps to ensure that he gets the expert treatment he needs without delay.” No executions have been carried out in Pakistan since 2008.