Pakistan: Edinburgh man sentenced to death for blasphemy should be released

Pakistan must immediately and unconditionally release a man sentenced to death under the country’s blasphemy laws today, Amnesty International said.

Mohammad Asghar, a UK citizen with mental illness who has been living in Pakistan, was first arrested in 2010 after allegedly sending letters to various officials claiming he was a prophet.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used indiscriminately against both Muslims and non-Muslims, and violate the basic human rights of freedom of religion and thought.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director Polly Truscott said:

“Mohammad Asghar is now facing the gallows simply for writing a series of letters. He does not deserve punishment. No one should be charged on the basis of this sort of conduct.

“The blasphemy laws undermine the rule of law, and people facing charges risk death and other harm in detention. Pakistan must immediately release Mohammad Ashgar and reform its blasphemy laws to ensure that this will not happen again.”

In November 2012, another British citizen, Masud Ahmad, of the Ahmadi sect, was imprisoned for reciting a passage from the Qu’ran, a prohibited act for Ahmadis under the country’s blasphemy laws. The Ahmaddiya community are legally barred from calling themselves Muslim, and professing, practising and propagating their faith as Muslims. Masud Ahmad has been denied bail and his health is deteriorating as he languishes in jail awaiting an appeal of his sentence which has yet to be concluded.

Polly Truscott said:

“The Pakistani authorities must immediately and unconditionally release both Mohammad Asghar and Masud Ahmad and guarantee their safety and that of their families. Several individuals have been attacked, some even killed following charges of blasphemy.

“At a time when Pakistan is reeling from a spate of abuses which perpetrators seek to justify as a defence of religious sentiments, reform of the blasphemy laws is more urgent than ever.”

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