British 'prophet' faces Pakistan death sentence for blasphemy
Mohammad Asghar, said to have history of mental illness, wrote letters claiming he is a prophet
A BRITISH man living in Pakistan, Mohammad Asghar, has been sentenced to death for blasphemy after claiming to be a religious prophet. A plea of mental illness was rejected by the court.
Asghar, a 70-year-old Briton of Pakistani origin who is said to have family in Scotland, was arrested in Pakistan in 2010 after he wrote letters to various people, including police, officers identifying himself as a new prophet.
His lawyer told the BBC that Asghar's defence - that he suffered mental health problems - was rejected by a judge after a medical panel ruled him sane. She added that the judge had had her forcibly removed from the court room and carried out the rest of the trial behind closed doors.
She intends to launch an appeal, though a moratorium on the death penalty in Pakistan since 2008 means Asghar's life is unlikely to be in danger.
The International Business Times quotes prosecutor Javed Gul as saying: "Asghar claimed to be a prophet even inside the court. He confessed it in front of the judge." He added that the defendant had carried a business card which identified him as a prophet.
Pakistan's strictly-imposed blasphemy laws have caused international outrage, with human rights organisations saying they are used as a tool to carry out political vendettas.
In 2012 a young Christian girl, named only as Rimsha and said to have learning difficulties was arrested on blasphemy charges and held in a high security prison for several weeks. On her release, her family fled to Canada.