Fri, Nov 17, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Pakistani president commutes Briton's death sentence

AFP , ISLAMABAD

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf yesterday commuted the death sentence of a British man in response to appeals by top British leaders, paving the way towards his freedom, officials said.

Mirza Tahir Hussain, 36, from Leeds, will instead be given a life sentence and could be eligible for release having spent the past 18 years in prison.

Britain's Prince Charles had asked that Pakistan commute Hussain's sentence, making a request to Musharraf while touring Pakistan last month and writing to Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Charles spoke to Musharraf on the issue after a meeting in Islamabad on Oct. 30, the Times newspaper in London reported.

Pakistan had previously scheduled the hanging of Hussain to take place during the five-day royal trip but had delayed it by two months until Dec. 31.

"We are very happy over the news. It has been a long struggle for justice, but finally it has come through," Hussain's 22-year-old cousin Saeed Hussain said.

Hussain has spent nearly half his life on Pakistan's death row for murdering a taxi driver, Jamshed Khan. He claims he acted in self-defense after the driver sexually assaulted him.

He was convicted in 1989 but in 1996 he was cleared by a high court. However, an Islamic Shariah court took control of the case and imposed the death penalty.

Khan's family refused an offer of blood money from Hussain's relatives, which would have saved him from the noose.

A spokesman for the British High Commission in Islamabad said he had no information on whether Hussain's sentence had been commuted but confirmed that negotiations were ongoing.

Last month British Prime Minister Tony Blair also urged Musharraf to commute the sentence after British newspapers published a heartfelt written appeal by Hussain.

Pakistani officials had previously said that Musharraf should not be seen to be bowing to Western pressure over the case and that any move to save Hussain from the death penalty had to be taken by the courts.

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