Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Thursday, 16 November 2006

Death row man's 'nightmare ends'

Mirza Tahir Hussain with members of his family
Mirza Tahir Hussain, behind bars, with members of his family

The family of a British man whose death sentence in Pakistan has been commuted to life imprisonment say they hope he will be returned to Britain soon.

Mirza Tahir Hussain, 36, of Leeds, West Yorkshire, was convicted in 1989 of murdering taxi driver Jamshed Khan.

His brother Amjad said: "At last these 18 years of nightmare appear to be coming to an end."

But the family of the victim have said they are furious and plan to appeal against the decision.

The Khan family's lawyer Malik Rab Nawaz Noon told the BBC Asian Network: "(The) victim's family (is) very much perturbed, they're very much upset.

'Shattered life'

"When they got the news, the whole family is crying.

"They want him to be hanged by neck until a doctor declare him dead. I will take it further, to the courts of law, and try my level best to get him hanged."

Hopefully, Mirza will be returning back home to Leeds very, very soon
Sajjad Karim MEP

President Pervez Musharraf intervened in the case following a long campaign to prevent Hussain's hanging.

He was convicted in 1989 of murdering taxi driver Jamshed Khan.

His brother Amjad said: "At last these 18 years of nightmare appear to be coming to an end."

Speaking to reporters at his home in Brudenell Grove, Hyde Park, Leeds, he said: "We are awaiting the news that finally Tahir will be able to come back to us and start rebuilding his shattered life. We are hoping it is soon."

Jamshed Khan
The family of Jamshed Khan say they will appeal against the decision

He said the intervention of Prince Charles, who had urged clemency during a recent visit to Pakistan, had been "very important".

Prince Charles was "very pleased" with the decision, Clarence House said.

Foreign secretary Margaret Beckett said: "We're very grateful to President Musharraf for the decision he's made in commuting the sentence and very much appreciate the steps the Pakistan government has taken and I'm sure his family will be particularly grateful and pleased."

Prime Minister Tony Blair previously said he had raised the matter personally with General Musharraf during the president's visit to the UK.

'Immediate release'

Sajjad Karim, who led a delegation of European Parliament members (MEPs) to lobby President Musharraf earlier this year, praised the role Prince Charles had played during a recent visit to Pakistan.

"He is somebody who is held in very high regard by the Pakistan Government," he said.

Amjad Hussain
Amjad Hussain said his brother had "suffered beyond belief"

"The next step we will be pushing for is an immediate release.

"Hopefully, Mirza will be returning back home to Leeds very, very soon."

Yorkshire and Humber MEP Edward McMillan-Scott said he has been working to ensure Hussain's release.

He said: "I have been working with the family to secure Hussain's release and was planning a last-minute plea next month which will now become a plea for his return to Leeds for Christmas."

Greg Mulholland, Hussain's local MP, called for an official statement confirming Hussain would be released and allowed to return to his family in Leeds.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad said it was not immediately clear where he would serve the sentence or whether he might be freed.

Hussain's hanging was due to take place during the royal trip by the prince and the Duchess of Cornwall in October, but it was initially delayed until 31 December after the prince wrote to Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

He had been cleared by a high court in 1996 but an Islamic Sharia court took the case over and imposed the death penalty.

The sentence could have been revoked if Mr Khan's family had accepted an offer of blood money, but they refused.

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