Schizophrenic sentenced to death on blasphemy charges

Ashgar, who hails from Edinburgh, has been living in Pakistan since 2010 and taking care of his family property. He was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in the UK.

Pakistan
Jan 30 2014, 2:18 PM
Schizophrenic sentenced to death on blasphemy charges

A Rawalpindi court last week sentenced to death a 65 year old schizophrenic British national of Pakistani origin, Muhammad Ashgar, after he was found guilty of blasphemy.

Ashgar, who hails from Edinburgh, has been living in Pakistan since 2010 and taking care of his family property. He was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in the UK.

He introduced himself as ‘a messenger of Allah’ to politicians and police officials in letters that he wrote but never posted. In 2010, a tenant who read the letters, after he was served an eviction notice, filed a complaint against Ashgar, following which he was arrested in Sadiqabad.

The court rejected the defence’s claim that Ashgar suffered from mental health problems. On the court’s orders, Ashgar’s lawyers were replaced with state-appointed lawyers who did not highlight Ashgar’s mental illness.

Ashgar was charged under Section 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code which states: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Ashgar’s lawyers plan to appeal against the verdict but asked not to be named for fear of extremist attacks.

Scottish human rights organisation Global Minorities Alliance’s Chief Executive, Manassi Bernard said "Minorities are equal citizens of Pakistan and they should be respected and protected"

Bernard said, "We condemn the misuse of Blasphemy Laws as well as terrorist attacks like the most recent on Sunday in Peshawar where the extremists opened fire on the security guard in Peshawar Hindu Temple leaving one dead. All religions in the world preach peace and respect and their legislation should reflect this.”

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are widely misused to settle personal conflicts and minority communities are often targeted. Mob law takes place if a court rules a blasphemy accused innocent. In 2010, Christian brothers Rahid Emmanuel and Sajjid Emmanuel were shot while leaving Faisalabad’s Civil Lines Police Station after no evidence of blasphemy was found against them.

Extremists have successfully created a climate of hatred and fear in Pakistan. Anyone who stands up against blasphemy law is threatened.

Source: Pakistan Christian Post

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