December 5, 2014 / 12:53 PM / 3 years ago

UK's Cameron asks Pakistan to treat Briton jailed for blasphemy fairly

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (C), President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan and Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) pose on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street after their meeting in London December 5, 2014.Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron asked his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Friday to ensure a British man jailed for blasphemy is treated fairly and that his history of mental health is taken into account.

Cameron raised the case of 70-year-old Muhammad Asghar during a meeting in London with Prime Minister Sharif, the British leader's spokeswoman told reporters, saying more junior government officials had previously raised the same matter.

Asghar, a Muslim from Edinburgh, was arrested in 2010 and sentenced to death in January after a disgruntled tenant presented letters he had written saying he was a prophet.

In September, his lawyers said he had been shot and wounded in jail by a prison guard in Rawalpindi, next to Islamabad.

"The PM raised the Asghar case," said Cameron's spokeswoman. "Our focus at the moment is making sure he gets the right level of treatment and that the case is handled in the right way, given his particular situation."

Blasphemy charges, punishable by death in Muslim-majority Pakistan, are hard to fight because the law does not define what is blasphemous. Presenting the evidence can sometimes itself be considered a fresh infringement.

Asghar had previously been detained under the mental health act in Britain and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, according to documents his lawyers supplied to Reuters.

Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Additional reporting by Katherine Houreld in Islamabad; Editing by Stephen Addison

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