independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Mentally ill pensioner sentenced to death for blasphemy

The British pensioner has a history of severe mental illness. Picture posed
The British pensioner has a history of severe mental illness. Picture posed

A British pensioner with a history of severe mental illness has been sentenced to death in Pakistan after being found guilty of breaching the country's blasphemy laws.

Muhammad Asghar (69), from Edinburgh, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia but is unaware that he is mentally ill following a stroke, was convicted at the end of a trial in Rawalpindi in which it was alleged that he claimed to be the Prophet Mohamed.

During the case, which was heard without a jury, the judge forcibly removed his independent lawyers and appointed a state counsel on the defendant's behalf.

EVIDENCE

A sworn affidavit by a British consultant psychiatrist confirmed Mr Asghar's grandiose claims were consistent with his deteriorating mental health, but it was not considered as evidence.

His treatment has been condemned by human rights organisations which have long campaigned against Pakistan's anti-blasphemy legislation, which, according to Amnesty International, has created a climate of fear in the devoutly Muslim country.

Mr Asghar's lawyers are appealing the conviction, though it could take five years before it is heard. There have been no executions in Pakistan since a 2008 presidential moratorium, but this expired last year.

Mr Asghar is married with two daughters and a number of grandchildren.

His wife, who is also said to be in very poor health, is in Rawalpindi. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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