Muhammad Asghar, 70, was arrested in 2010 after writing letters to various people claiming to be a prophet, reports say. His lawyers argued for leniency, saying he has a history of mental illness, but this was rejected by a medical panel. Asghar, who was from Edinburgh, Scotland, was accused of writing letters to police officers claiming to be a prophet. He was thought to have lived in Pakistan for several years. “Asghar claimed to be a prophet even inside the court. He confessed it in front of the judge,” Javed Gull, a government prosecutor, told AFP news agency. But his lawyer told the BBC’s Saba Eitizaz that she was forcibly removed from the case by the judge and that proceedings were carried out behind closed doors. His lawyer said she would launch an appeal against the verdict. Higher courts in Pakistan have been known to overturn blasphemy verdicts handed down in lower courts because of insufficient evidence. Asghar had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and had treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh, but the court did not accept his medical reports from the UK, reports say. He had been in jail since his arrest in 2010 and his lawyer said he has also tried to take his own life in jail on one occasion. Correspondents said Asghar was unlikely to be executed as Pakistan had had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 2008. He was also ordered to pay a substantial fine by the court. A Scottish government spokesman said they were “concerned” about the case. “As a minimum we would urge the Pakistani authorities to abide by the moratorium they have on the death penalty. Our thoughts are with Mr. Asghar’s family at this difficult time,” the spokesman said. Senior UK Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi said British officials were providing consular support to Mr. Asghar. “We will be raising our concerns in the strongest possible terms with the Pakistani government,” she added. The legal charity Reprieve urged the UK government to take immediate steps to protect Asghar, adding that he had has “a long and documented history of psychological ill-health” and needs constant care.
Critics argued that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are frequently misused to settle personal scores and that members of minority groups are also unfairly targeted.
In 2014, Muhammad Asghar was shot by a guard in the Adiala jail due to blasphemy.