Sat, Nov 18, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Briton freed from Pakistani jail after serving 18 years


A British man who faced execution in Pakistan for allegedly murdering a taxi driver was freed from jail yesterday, ending his 18-year fight for justice.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf commuted Mirza Tahir Hussain's death sentence to life imprisonment the previous day, following appeals by Britain's Prince Charles and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"Mirza Tahir Hussain has been released this morning. He is a free person now and he can go wherever he wants to go," Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said.

Asked if the 36-year-old Hussain had been handed over to the British High Commission in Islamabad, Sherpao said: "I can only say that he has been released."

Officials said life was usually 25 years but Hussain had served enough time due to Muslim holidays and good behavior.

The British High Commission was not immediately available for comment, while officials at the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, had no details of who Hussain left with.

Hussain, from Leeds in northern England, allegedly murdered taxi driver Jamshed Khan in 1988 shortly after arriving in Pakistan to visit family. He claims he acted in self-defense after the driver sexually assaulted him.

The dual British-Pakistani national was convicted in 1989 but in 1996 he was cleared by a high court. However an Islamic Shariah court then took control of the case and sentenced him to hang.

Rights groups said he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice because he had already been cleared of the crime once.

Hussain's brother Amjad, who has led a campaign to overturn the death sentence, on Thursday hailed the end of an "18-year nightmare" and said he hoped for Mirza's rapid release so he could rebuild his shattered life.

"I knew that President Musharraf would not let us down," he told reporters in Britain. He also thanked Prince Charles, saying: "We are grateful to his royal highness for the representation that he has made."

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