Pakistani authorities block medical access to mentally ill British prisoner

Pakistani authorities block medical access to mentally ill British prisoner

By agency reporter
14 Mar 2014

Authorities in Pakistan are refusing to allow access for a doctor to carry out an independent medical assessment of a British man sentenced to death earlier this year on blasphemy charges.

Mohammad Asghar suffers from serious mental illness. He has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and just four months before his arrest in Pakistan in September 2010 was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and hospitalised at the Royal Victoria Hospital in his home town of Edinburgh.

THe legal charity Reprieve, which is supporting Mr Asghar, has asked that an independent medical specialist be allowed access to him in order to carry out a full evaluation, but has so far had this request refused.

The British Government has raised Mr Asghar’s case with Pakistan on a number of occasions. Prime Minister David Cameron said on 29 January that “the Pakistani authorities can be in no doubt of the seriousness with which we take these developments.”

More recently, according to Foreign Office Minister Hugh Robertson, Minister of State Baroness Warsi raised the case with the Chief Minister of Punjab; while last month the British High Commissioner raised concerns over Mr Asghar with the Governor of Punjab, Mohamed Sarwar –formerly the Labour MP for Glasgow Central.

Reprieve investigator Kate Higham said: “Despite serious concerns about Mr Asghar’s health, the Pakistani authorities are refusing to grant access to an independent doctor to carry out a full medical and psychiatric evaluation.

“The Pakistani Government itself has said that the issue of Mr Asghar’s mental health was ‘perhaps not brought out in the proceedings of the case,’ and expressed hope that ‘justice would [now] be done on the grounds of his mental infirmity.’

“Yet without a proper medical evaluation, it is hard to see how this will be possible. More urgently, the lack of such an evaluation also means that Mr Asghar continues to be denied appropriate medical treatment in prison – despite having been diagnosed while in the UK as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

“Pakistan’s Government must realise that mere words are not enough. They must allow an independent medical expert to have access to Mr Asghar without delay.”

[Ekk/4]

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