- (Photo: Morning Star/Thepersecution.org)
A 70-year-old British man has been sentenced to death by the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi which found him guilty of insulting Islam and committing blasphemy by claiming to be a prophet. The court rejected claims that he is mentally ill.
"[Muhammad] Asghar claimed to be a prophet even inside the court. He confessed it in front of the judge," Javed Gul, a government prosecutor, told Agence France-Presse news agency.
The British man, who is from Edinburgh, Scotland, was reportedly arrested in 2010 after writing several letters claiming to be a prophet. His lawyers argued that he has a history of mental illness, but a medical panel rejected the evidence.
In Pakistan, where close to 96.4 percent of the population is said to be Muslim, the offense of insulting Islam carries a potential death penalty.
"We are afraid that Asghar is not going to live long enough to see an appeal against his death sentence." Asghar's lawyer, whose name was not revealed due to security reasons, shared with BBC News' Saba Eitizaz in Islamabad. The man has apparently tried to take his life in jail, where he has been held since 2010.
Further reports on the British man revealed that he came to Pakistan several years ago to look after his family's property there. The Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh has diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic, and he is partially paralyzed following a stroke.
BBC noted that there are fears religious extremists might harm him while still in jail. Muslim mobs had reportedly gathered around the courthouse, and placed pressure on the court to act decisively in the blasphemy case. Still, it is unlikely Asghar will actually be executed, as there has been a moratorium on the death penalty in the South Asian country since 2008.
Pakistan's blasphemy laws have also targeted the minority Christian population. Persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern identified the country as one of the most religiously hostile nations in the world, and noted that followers of Christ face "extreme forms of persecution on a daily basis."