Lawyers acting for Mohammed Asghar, a British man suffering from severe mental health issues, have today (31 Jan) filed an appeal against his conviction and death sentence for blasphemy at Pakistan’s High Court. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20015)
The appeal challenges Asghar’s conviction on a number of grounds, including the court’s failure to consider any evidence of his mental health problems, which are detailed extensively in NHS records from the UK.
Mr Asghar's lawyers say that the appeal may take up to five years to be heard by Pakistan’s High Court, owing to a huge backlog of cases. Having visited Mr Asghar yesterday, they fear that his poor health means he is ill-equipped for a lengthy wait. Mr Asghar remains severely mentally ill, they report, but the prison authorities have not yet taken the necessary steps to provide him with the specialist medical treatment he urgently requires.
Mr Asghar’s case this week attracted attention from Westminster and the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, David Cameron said he was “deeply concerned”, and that “the Pakistani authorities can be in no doubt of the seriousness with which we take these developments.”
Meanwhile, a motion tabled in the Scottish Parliament calling on the Pakistani authorities urgently to review Mr Asghar's case has received cross-party support.
Maya Foa, Director of legal charity Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “We have grave concerns about the ongoing lack of appropriate medical treatment for Mr Asghar, and hope that the British and Pakistani Governments will do everything they can to ensure that he receives treatment without further delay. I trust that both governments are exploring every possible option to ensure that it does not take five years to see the effects of this terrible miscarriage of justice reversed.”
* Information on mental health problems from Mind: http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-proble...