Islamabad: Pakistan has refused to give access to an independent medical specialist to carry out “psychiatric evaluation” of a 65-year-old British national of Pakistani-origin, who was sentenced to death under the controversial blasphemy law, a UK-based charity said today.

Legal charity Reprieve, which is supporting Mohammad Asghar, said it had demanded that an independent medical specialist be allowed access in order to carry out a full evaluation of his medical condition.

Reprieve investigator Kate Higham said: “Despite serious concerns about Asghar’s health, the Pakistani authorities are refusing to grant access to an independent doctor to carry out a full medical and psychiatric evaluation.”

Asghar was arrested in 2010 in Rawalpindi for writing letters claiming to be a prophet. In January, a court in the garrison city of Rawalpindi sentenced Asghar to death under the blasphemy law and imposed a fine of Rs 1 million on him.

Defence lawyer contended that since Asghar was suffering from mental disorder, his case should be treated on humanitarian grounds.

The court set up a medical board to verify the lawyer’s contention. However, the board’s report said Asghar was psychologically stable and did not suffer from any disorder.

The British government has raised Asghar’s case with Pakistan on a number of occasions. British Prime Minister David Cameron has said “the Pakistani authorities can be in no doubt of the seriousness with which we take these developments.”

Several persons have been sentenced to death under the harsh blasphemy law though none of them have been executed so far. Pakistani rights groups have criticised the law, saying it is often used to settle personal scores or to persecute minorities.

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Free Press Journal