February 20, 2014
More than 28,000 people have backed a petition calling for the release of a mentally ill Scottish man sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy. Demands for Mohammad Asghar to be freed on humanitarian grounds have intensified since The Independent published an open letter today from politicians, academics, human rights campaigners and Islamic scholars appealing for clemency.
Mr Asghar, who has a history of mental illness and is thought to be a paranoid schizophrenic, had been detained under the Mental Health Act in 2010 shortly before he flew to Pakistan. Once there he became caught up in a dispute with a tenant who went to the police with letters written by Mr Asghar in which he claimed to be the Prophet Mohamed.
The online petition to David Cameron and Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, urges them to “intervene in the strongest possible terms to help save the life of a vulnerable British man”. The letter’s signatories raised concerns about the failing health of the 70-year-old grandfather and urged the Pakistani President, Mamnoon Hussain, to intervene stating: “We respectfully urge you to consider using your discretionary powers as President to pardon Mr Asghar and to allow him to be released from jail so he can receive his treatment and be reunited with his loving family.”