Pakistan authorities ‘attempting to bury’ info on Brit’s blasphemy shooting

The Pakistani authorities are attempting to suppress details of an official investigation into the shooting of Mohammed Asghar, it’s emerged, amid growing calls for the release of the mentally-ill British grandfather.

Mr Asghar, a 70-year-old British citizen, suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and was given a death sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan in 2010. He was targeted two weeks ago by a police officer while on death row in Adiala, a maximum-security jail in Rawalpindi. Since the shooting, Mr Asghar has been hospitalised.

Today it was revealed that the authorities in Punjab province, where Mr Asghar is being held, have refused requests by Mr Asghar’s lawyers to access the results of an investigation into the shooting, as well as information relating to medical assessments of him since the incident. That information could support arguments that Mr Asghar’s sentence is illegal on the grounds of his mental illness.

The refusal has added to concerns voiced by Mr Asghar’s family that he has little prospect of fair treatment or protection while he remains in Pakistan. Violent attacks by extremists on people accused of blasphemy, including senior political figures, are common in the country.

This Friday (17th), Mr Asghar’s daughter Jasmine will deliver to 10 Downing Street a petition of nearly 70,000 signatures calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to do all he can to bring Mr Asghar home to the UK. At a meeting today with Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond, the family asked him to urge the Prime Minister to intervene in the case.

Commenting, Kate Higham, an investigator at Reprieve said: “The fact that the local authorities in Pakistan are unwilling to share any meaningful information about this incident leaves question marks hanging around their commitment to ensuring both accountability and Mr Asghar’s ongoing security. This is simply unacceptable. Mr Asghar is an ageing, seriously ill man who should never have been sentenced in the first place. The British Government must redouble its efforts to ensure that Mr Asghar is returned home to his family in Edinburgh, before it’s too late.”