Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Pakistan blasphemy Scot 'too unwell' for prison

Mohammad Asghar Image copyright Aamer Anwar
Image caption 70-year-old Mohammad Asghar was on death row for blasphemy when he was shot in the back by a prison guard

Doctors in Pakistan have said that a mentally-ill Edinburgh man who was shot by a police officer while on death row for blasphemy is too unwell to return to prison.

Mohammad Asghar has been in hospital after he was shot by a police guard in Adiala jail, Rawalpindi, last week.

Pakistani authorities had since attempted to return him to the same prison where he was attacked.

The Scottish government said on Wednesday it was ready to assist.

On Tuesday, lawyers acting on 70-year-old Mr Asghar's behalf filed an emergency application to keep him in hospital.

British citizen Mr Asghar is suffering from injuries resulting from the shooting as well as paranoid schizophrenia.

Far from safe

He was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in Edinburgh's Royal Victoria Hospital shortly before his trip to Pakistan in 2010.

Legal charity Reprieve is now calling on the British government to "redouble its efforts" to ensure Mr Asghar is returned to his family in Edinburgh when he is well enough to travel.

Kate Higham, an investigator at the charity, said: "While it is a relief that Mr Asghar is not being sent back to prison immediately, he is still far from safe from further attempts on his life.

"The only way we can be sure of his safety is to have him returned to Britain. He is deeply vulnerable, mentally ill man who should never have been put through this appalling ordeal."

Mr Asghar was arrested for writing several letters claiming to be a prophet and was sentenced to death for blasphemy after moving to Pakistan in 2010.

Those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are at high risk of attack from religious extremists.

Image caption Mr Asghar was shot in the back at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi on Thursday morning

Scottish ministers have offered to support the wishes of Mr Asghar's family, as well as his safety.

Asghar family solicitor Aamer Anwar, who met First Minister Alex Salmond over the issue on Tuesday, urged him to intervene.

A Scottish government spokesman said ministers remained concerned about Mr Asghar.

He added: "The first minister has been involved in this matter for many months.

"We have had direct conversations with the government of Punjab on our concerns regarding Mr Asghar's safety and medical wellbeing.

"We are monitoring the situation closely and are in contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the NGO (Reprieve) supporting Mr Asghar and his family."

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