Authorities in Pakistan are refusing to allow access for a doctor to carry out an independent medical assessment of a Briton Mohammed Asghar sentenced to death on blasphemy charges.

According to a statement by Reprieve, a legal charity which is assisting his case, Asghar, 69, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and just four months before his arrest in Pakistan in September 2010, he was detained under the Mental Health Act and hospitalised at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh.

Reprieve had demanded that an independent medical specialist be allowed access to him in order to carry out a full evaluation, but so far this request has been refused. While an appeal has been filed in the Islamabad high court against his death sentence, there are concerns about Mr Asghar's health in jail.

Reprieve said the UK government had raised Mr. Asghar's case with Pakistan on a number of occasions.  Prime Minister David Cameron said in January that "the Pakistani authorities can be in no doubt of the seriousness with which we take these developments."  More recently, according to Foreign Office Minister Hugh Robertson, Minister of State Baroness Warsi raised the case with the Punjab chief minister.

The statement quoted Reprieve investigator Kate Higham as saying, "Despite serious concerns about Mr. Asghar's health, the Pakistani authorities are refusing to grant access to an independent doctor to carry out a full medical and psychiatric evaluation. The Pakistan government itself has said that the issue of Mr. Asghar's mental health was 'perhaps not brought out in the proceedings of the case,' and expressed the hope that 'justice would now be done on the grounds of his mental infirmity.'"

She said Pakistan must allow an independent medical expert to have access to Mr. Asghar without delay so that appropriate treatment can be given to him.