Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Family of blasphemy Scot Muhammad Asghar fear more attempts on his life

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe family of an Edinburgh grandfather, who was shot and wounded by a prison officer while on death row in Pakistan, appeal for his release

The family of a Scottish grandfather wounded by a prison guard in Pakistan have said they fear further attempts on his life.

Muhammad Asghar, 70, was in custody pending an appeal against a death sentence passed for blasphemy when he was shot in the back.

His daughter Jasmine Rana said it was her "worst nightmare come true".

The family solicitor said Mr Asghar was "stable" in hospital but his mental health had deteriorated.

A prison guard Mohammad Yousuf appeared in court in Rawalpindi on Friday accused of the shooting and was remanded in custody.

A police official told BBC News the guard had worked at the jail for about a year and appeared to hold strong religious views.

Mr Asghar, a successful Edinburgh businessman with a history of mental illness, including a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, returned to live in Pakistan in 2010.

He was later arrested for writing several letters claiming to be a prophet and convicted of blasphemy.

At a news conference in Glasgow, solicitor Aamer Anwar said Mr Asghar was lying in bed in his prison cell in Rawalpindi jail on Thursday morning when he heard a commotion.

"He was shot as he turned around to see what was happening. He was still lying down on his bed and he said that the bullet hit him in the back," he said.

Image copyright Aamer Anwar
Image caption The 70-year-old was arrested in 2010 after writing letters to a number of people claiming to be a prophet

"The alleged perpetrator, a constable Mohammad Yousuf of the elite commando unit, fired at him again but the second bullet missed.

"The perpetrator was then taken hold of and stopped by two other guards. Mr Asghar was then given emergency medical treatment in the hospital before being moved to ICU."

Mr Anwar said Mr Asghar remained in shock after his ordeal and the family had continued concerns for his security.

"Our legal team in Pakistan have armed guards for their own protection, but they were permitted to enter Mr Asghar's room without anyone patting them down or asking for identification," he said.

The location of the hospital, which he described as "underfunded" and "derelict" had already been revealed in Pakistani newspaper articles, despite the family's request for a media blackout, he said.

Image caption The attack took place at this jail in Rawalpindi

He said the family was urging David Cameron to intervene directly of behalf of Mr Asghar to arrange his return to Scotland on medical grounds pending a legal appeal which could take up to five years.

"The Asghar family will hold David Cameron personally responsible if Mr Asghar were to die," he added.

Mr Asghar's daughter Rana said the family had " spent every day fearing for his safety".

"In the UK, the Scottish government assured us that steps were taken to keep our dad safe in prison. Obviously that hasn't happened. Our dad has turned out to be at risk from the very people responsible for his safety," she said.

His son, Tony Asghar, added: "Release him. He's a British citizen. He's never done anything in his life in this country but work. He's not got a criminal record, He's never had a parking fine.

"All he's done in this country is work, work work. He's a very caring man. He's given millions away to charity, thousands and thousands of pounds. Just bring him home."

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office Spokesman said: "We are deeply concerned about the case of Mr Asghar, who was injured while in prison in Pakistan.

"Consular officials continue to monitor his situation and are liaising with the hospital and prison authorities.

"We have raised our concerns about his safety and welfare at senior levels to ensure that he is receiving the best possible support and that there is an urgent investigation into what happened."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The Scottish Government remains concerned about Mr Asghar. We have had direct conversations with the Government of Punjab on our concerns regarding Mr Asghar's safety and mental wellbeing.

"We are monitoring the situation closely and are in contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the NGO supporting Mr Asghar and his family. We stand ready to do whatever we can to support the wishes of the Asghar family and assist with the safety, security and wellbeing of Mr Asghar."

Mr Asghar was convicted under the blasphemy law in 2010 and sentenced to death earlier this year.

He filed an appeal in the Lahore High Court in February 2014 against his sentence, but it has yet to be heard.

His family claim the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia was not taken into account at his trial.

'Appalling attack'

British politicians and activists have been campaigning for his release, urging the Pakistani government to intervene in his case so he can be treated.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve said: "This appalling attack shows that the only way to ensure Mr Asghar's safety is to have him returned home to Britain.

"The UK government must redouble its efforts on this front - and as a first step, must urgently ensure that he is moved today to a safe location in Pakistan, until he is well enough to travel.

"Mr Asghar is a vulnerable, 70-year old man suffering from severe mental illness - a fact which has been consistently ignored by the Pakistani courts during his four year ordeal.

"David Cameron said he was 'deeply concerned' about his case earlier this year - but now we must see concrete action to ensure his safety."

Related Topics

More on this story