08042015Wed

Last updateTue, 07 Apr 2015 11pm

#BLASPHEMY: Elderly, mentally-ill Briton facing death in Pakistan after prophet claims

An elderly British Muslim with a history of mental illness has been sentenced to death in Pakistan after being found guilty of blasphemy.

Muhammad Asghar, 70, was arrested in 2010 after writing letters to a number of people claiming to be a prophet. 

Now the grandfather, originally from Edinburgh, faces death by hanging after a court found him guilty under Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws.

The British legal charity Reprieve has demanded that the government intervene in the case as he is "in dire need of medical care" and may not live long enough to mount an appeal. 

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, told the Huffington Post: "The evidence is clear that he is unable to defend himself in court," she said.

"Worse still, he is currently being held in utterly unsuitable conditions in prison, and we are very concerned about his health."

Mr Asghar is believed to have been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and had treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh, but the court did not accept his medical reports from the UK, reports say. 

He had returned to Pakistan several years ago to look after the family's assets in the country.  The blasphemy accusation came from a tenant in a building owned by Mr Asghar after the resident was given an eviction notice, according to the BBC.

"Asghar claimed to be a prophet even inside the court. He confessed it in front of the judge," Javed Gul, a government prosecutor, told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

But lawyers have said they were forcibly removed from the case by the judge and that proceedings were carried out behind closed doors.

The British High Commission told Al Jazeera: "We can't give any information, other than we are aware of the case."

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