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Mohammad Asghar case: An open letter to Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain


We are deeply concerned at the conviction by a Pakistani court last month of British grandfather Mohammed Asghar for blasphemy offences in Rawalpindi. Mr Asghar is 70 years old and is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

He is also physically weak as the result of a stroke which triggered his mental illness. According to his lawyers he is now barely lucid but is not receiving the appropriate medication or treatment for his serious condition whilst he is in prison awaiting the result of an appeal against his conviction and the death penalty sentence handed down by the court.

Amnesty International is among the many organisations to have raised concerns over the case – particularly the failure to include expert medical evidence from Mr Asghar’s doctor as part of his defence.

Shortly before travelling to Pakistan where the offences occurred, Mr Asghar was detained under the Mental Health Act in Scotland. Following his release it is believed he stopped taking his medication and his condition once again deteriorated.

An affidavit provided by Dr Jane McLennan, a leading expert in the field of mental illness in older people who treated him in Edinburgh, confirms that his behaviour is a symptom of his psychiatric disorder which requires urgent medical, psychological and social interventions.

Like so many British Pakistanis, Mr Asghar was a successful businessman and pillar of the community who lived for many years in the UK where, through a lifetime of hard work, he helped promote the bonds of friendship and understanding between his native and adopted countries.

We the undersigned are concerned that his recovery from illness is impossible whilst he remains detained at Adiala jail, where his lawyers fear he is in danger of taking his own life.

We respectfully urge you to consider using your discretionary powers as President to pardon Mr Asghar and to allow him to be released from jail so that he can receive his treatment and be reunited with his loving family.

The signatories

Mr Maajid Nawaz, Quilliam  Foundation;
Sheikh Dr Usama Hasan, Quilliam Foundation; 
Afzal Amin, Conservative party candidate;
Dr Ghayasuddin  Siddiqui, Muslim Institute; 
Revd Professor Michael J Reiss, Institute of Education;
Nasreen Rehman, British Muslims for a  Secular Democracy; 
Mohammed Amin, Conservative Muslims Association;
Mufti Abdul Kadir Barkatulla, senior imam at Finchley Mosque;
Ziauddin Sardar, City University, London; 
Mohammed Abbasi, Labour Cllr;
Paul Salahuddin Armstrong,  Association of British Muslims;
Khola Hasan, Albatross Consultancy;
Sara Khan, Inspire Institute;
Julie Siddiqi, Islamic Society of Britain;
Mona Sheaves, British Muslims for a Secular Democracy;
Suniya Qureshi, British Pakistan Foundation;
Haras Rafiq, Sufi  Muslim Council;
Sadiq Khan, Labour Justice spokesman;
Revd Canon Richard Wheeler, Canon Emeritus, St. Albans;
Robina Qureshi, Positive action in housing;
Index on Censorship, Freedom of speech campaign group;
Aamer Anwar, human rights lawyer