Inhuman penalty: The Government must act to bring Muhammad Asghar home

It would be troubling enough if this very ill man were to be left languishing in a Pakistani jail

Share

The prospect of a British national executed in a foreign land is one that could not be borne with equanimity in any event. In the case of Muhammad Asghar, the affront to justice, dignity and common humanity is more egregious still.

The 69-year-old grandfather, who spent 40 years in Britain, was sentenced to death in Pakistan yesterday. His crime? He claimed to be the Prophet Mohamed in private, unsent letters that came to light only when they were handed in by a man with whom he was in dispute.

The explanation is obvious. Mr Asghar has suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for several years, following a stroke in 2000. Under Pakistan’s indefensibly archaic anti-blasphemy laws, however, such details are immaterial. Indeed, the sworn affidavit of a leading British psychiatrist was dismissed by the court in Rawalpindi during a trial in which the defendant’s independent lawyers were arbitrarily replaced by state counsel. The only halfway good news is that Pakistan has had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty for several years so, although sentenced, Mr Asghar is unlikely to be executed imminently. Meanwhile, his legal team is already putting together an appeal.

But there is little real comfort. It would be troubling enough if this very ill man were to be left languishing in a Pakistani jail. More likely, though, he will either commit suicide (as he has already tried to do once, since his incarceration in 2010) or he will be murdered by Muslim extremists offended by his supposed “crimes”.

There are no grey areas here and can be no equivocation. Mr Asghar is a British citizen and he must be returned to Britain with all possible expedition. The Foreign Office stresses that representations have been made to the Pakistani government to secure his release. Efforts must be doubled and redoubled until they are successful.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Supply Teacher - Loughborough

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Teacher looking fo...

Primary General Cover Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher lo...

Part Time Primary Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Part Time Primary TeacherOur...

Science Technician

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

To see how the establishment operates, you really needed to be at this week’s launch party for Andrew Marr’s new book

John Walsh
Ballots arrive to be counted at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre during the Scottish referendum in Aberdeen  

Scottish referendum: The pain that was inflicted on family and friends by David Cameron’s narrow politics

Andrea Calderwood
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week