Pakistan-Death Row Briton Freed From Jail Nov 17, 2006 4:01:13 GMT -5
Post by hoxfoxparkin on Nov 17, 2006 4:01:13 GMT -5
Death row Briton freed from jail
A British man who spent 18 years on death row in Pakistan for a murder which he said was in self-defence has been released, an official has said.
President Pervez Musharraf commuted the death sentence on Mirza Tahir Hussain, 36, of Leeds, West Yorks, on Thursday.
"He was released this morning," Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said. "I don't know if he has left Pakistan or not."
Hussain was convicted in 1989 of murdering taxi driver Jamshed Khan.
He always said he killed the driver in self-defence, after being sexually assaulted.
Yesterday was wonderful when his sentence was commuted, but today we have the news everyone was really hoping for
Greg Mulholland MP
President Musharraf intervened in the case following a long campaign to prevent Hussain's hanging, including pleas for clemency from the Prince of Wales, Prime Minister Tony Blair, European politicians and human rights groups.
Greg Mulholland, the Hussain family's MP in Leeds, said: "Neither the family nor myself have had official confirmation of his release yet, but it looks like this is the news the family has been waiting for 18 years.
"Yesterday was wonderful when his sentence was commuted, but today we have the news everyone was really hoping for.
"We are waiting to hear details of when he can finally get on that plane and come home into the arms of his family.
"I am looking forward to shaking his hand when he's back in Leeds."
Hussain was originally acquitted of the murder by Pakistan's High Court, but an Islamic court sentenced him to death in 1998.
The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2003, and a review petition was rejected a year later.
But the government put off his execution several times, most recently until the end of this year.
Authorities had hoped a blood-money settlement, permitted under Islamic law, could be reached with the dead man's family.
But the relatives refused to negotiate, saying to do so would be dishonourable.
The family of the victim said on Thursday they were furious the sentence had been commuted and planned to appeal against the decision.
Fateful trip sealed man's future
Mirza Tahir Hussain was just a teenager when he left his West Yorkshire home in 1988 to visit relatives in Pakistan.
Three days after flying out from Heathrow, the 18-year-old Territorial Army soldier took a taxi ride which changed his life forever.
Hussain has always maintained the taxi driver, Jamshed Khan, tried to sexually assault him.
Khan pulled out a gun, Hussain claimed, and during a struggle the weapon went off and the driver was killed.
Death row yard
Hussain drove off in the taxi and turned himself in to the first policeman he saw.
He was later tried and convicted of murder but, following an appeal, the death penalty was revoked and he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1996, Hussain was acquitted of all charges against him by the Lahore High Court, but a week later it was declared that some of the alleged offences came within the jurisdiction of Islamic law.
His case was referred to the Federal Sharia Court, which reversed the decision of the High Court and served Hussain with the death penalty.
The strain of Hussain's incarceration has taken its toll on his family
Since then, the Briton has been held in the death row yard at the high-walled Rawalpindi central jail near Islamabad.
He is allowed to leave his 12ft by 8ft barred cell for just two hours a day to walk around the forecourt - one hour in the morning and one in the evening.
He sleeps on the floor and spends the rest of his time reading the Koran, writing or talking to his two cellmates, who are convicted murderers.
He turned to religion eight years ago and has said he uses Islam to help him overcome his fear of death.
The family of Hussain, including his brother Amjad, have campaigned relentlessly to stop him being executed in Pakistan and ultimately secure his release.
Their plight won backing from Amnesty International, along with both UK and Euro MPs, the Foreign Secretary and a coalition of NGOs.
Last month, Hussain was granted the last of a number of stays of execution after the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed their concerns.
After 18 years behind bars, the news that Hussain's death sentence has finally been commuted has been greeted with joy and relief from his family.
But the family of the taxi driver killed by Hussain are reportedly furious with the decision.
They have always demanded Hussain's execution, and the mother of the victim has said she would set herself on fire if the Briton was not hanged.