Window of opportunity to save life of mentally ill Briton in Pakistani jail

By agency reporter
September 29, 2014

David Cameron still has time to ensure the safety of mentally-ill Briton Mohammad Asghar, who was shot in a Pakistani jail last week, as it has emerged the 70 year old will spend a further two days in hospital being treated for his injuries.

Lawyers for Mr Asghar, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, are calling on the Prime Minister to ensure his safety after it was revealed last week that the Pakistani authorities intend to return him to the same prison in which he was shot by a guard believed to be a member of Pakistan’s Elite Force, says the legal charity Reprieve

Mr Asghar, who was sentenced to death earlier this year on ‘blasphemy’ charges, was shot in the back at around 8.30am on Thursday morning and subsequently taken to hospital where he received surgery. He is currently being kept in the Intensive Care Unit. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20864)

Since Mr Asghar’s sentencing earlier this year, his lawyers at Reprieve and his family had regularly warned the authorities that his life was at risk in Adiala prison, where last week's shooting took place. People accused or convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan face a high level of risk from attacks by religious extremists. David Cameron has previously expressed concern over the case but Mr Asghar’s family have called on him to do more.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, Mr Asghar’s daughter Jasmine said: “He [Mr Asghar] was diagnosed [with paranoid schizophrenia] in 2010 before he went to Pakistan. He was sectioned at that time so we’ve got the whole report; we’ve got about a 25 page report to say that he is ill. He was ill prior to being shot in prison; he wasn’t eating properly, he wasn’t drinking properly, he was deteriorating."

On Thursday evening last week (25 September), Reprieve sent a letter to David Cameron, requesting that all possible steps be taken to ensure that Mr Asghar be held in a secure facility where he could receive adequate treatment for his recent injuries and longstanding mental health problems.

Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty Team, said: “Mr Asghar’s two extra days in hospital mean there is a short window of opportunity here for David Cameron to step in and ensure his safety. Mr Asghar is an extremely vulnerable man and he must not be sent back to prison where there are very real threats to his life. The British government must ensure that he is held in a secure medical facility where he can receive the treatment he so desperately needs, both for his recent injuries and his existing mental illness.”

[Ekk/4]

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