January 31, 2014
The family of a second British man facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan said yesterday that he is entirely innocent and called for more to be done to allow him to return to the UK. Masud Ahmad, 72, is currently on bail in Lahore after he was allegedly tricked into publicly reading from the Koran – an act which is forbidden for members of the minority Ahmadi sect to which he belongs. He now faces three years in jail. Mr Ahmad had been released from prison on bail and was now in secure accommodation pending trial although it was not known when the case would be heard and he faced a long and uncertain wait.
Following his arrest in November more than 600 people protested outside the police station. Under Pakistan law it is an offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim. Each year dozens of members of the sect are charged with breaching religious laws whilst they and other minorities are also at risk of outbreaks of sectarian violence in the country if they are deemed to have committed blasphemy.
The quietly-spoken widower was arrested after he was recorded on a mobile phone reading from the Koran by two men posing as patients. Amnesty International said he was maliciously targeted because of his religion.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We will continue to provide consular assistance to both Mr Ahmad and his family.”