Page last updated at 22:39 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

Murder convictions are overturned

Three men jailed for life after a 20-year-old Birmingham man was shot will be free within months after their murder convictions were overturned.

Mahtab Ali Azam, 22, of Lozells, Asif Nadeem, 30, of Handsworth, and Mohamed Asif, 23, of Handsworth, were convicted of murdering Meshack Bernard-Brown.

Judges have now ruled the murder verdicts "unsafe" and replaced them with convictions for violent disorder.

The trio were each re-sentenced to four years imprisonment.

They will have to serve half of that before qualifying for automatic release.

'Very hurried'

Azam, of Francis Road, Lozells, Nadeem, of Brunswick Road, Handsworth, and Asif, of Roland Grove, Handsworth, were all found guilty of murdering Mr Meshack Bernard-Brown at Birmingham Crown Court in December 2008.

Lord Justice Hooper said none of the trio had fired the 12-bore shotgun used to kill the father-of-three as about 25 Asian youths ran amok on the night of 13 November 2006.

The man who prosecutors say fired the fatal shot, Kadeer Hussein, was spotted on CCTV.

But the court heard he made "a very hurried departure to Pakistan" the day after the killing and has never stood trial.

Third trial

Overturning the trio's murder convictions, Lord Justice Hooper said there was no direct or even circumstantial evidence of exactly when the shotgun was passed to Hussein, and it "would not be right to draw an inference" that Azam, Nadeem and Asif knew he had it.

The judge, sitting with Judge Warwick McKinnon and the Mr Justice Wyn Williams, said the pack violence erupted after two Asian youths - one of them Kadeer Hussein's brother - were stabbed in the Lozells area of Birmingham.

It was the prosecution's case that, with revenge in mind, he walked from Frances Road, down Burbury Street, to the Newtown area of the city, which has a significant black population.

Mr Bernard-Brown had had nothing to do with the earlier stabbings. He "must have been chosen at random", the judge said.

Lord Justice Hooper said that, despite Kadeer Hussein's absence, the jury must have been sure he was the one who fired the shot, otherwise the trio could never have been convicted of murder.

Azam, Nadeem and Asif had been convicted of the murder after a third trial, jurors having been unable to agree a verdict at the two previous hearings.

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