Page last updated at 09:02 GMT, Tuesday, 23 May 2006 10:02 UK

Death row Briton given reprieve

Mirza Tahir Hussain
Hussain was due to be executed on his 36th birthday

A Leeds man on death row in Pakistan has been spared after the president called off next week's execution.

Mirza Tahir Hussain was tried and convicted of murdering a taxi driver in 1988, when he was 18. He was due to be hanged on 1 June, his 36th birthday.

His family insist he is innocent and had appealed directly to President Pervez Musharraf to intervene.

The Pakistan High Commission in London said Hussain had been granted an indefinite stay of execution on Monday.

Under Islamic law, the families of the dead taxi driver and Hussain must reach agreement on how the case is to be settled, usually by some form of compensation.

Speaking from Islamabad on Tuesday, Hussain's brother Amjad told the BBC: "The Pakistan High Commissioner phoned me last night to tell me we have an indefinite stay of execution.

"This is great news, but it is only a step in the right direction.

President Pervez Musharraf
The family appealed for clemency to President Musharraf

"It is not the end of the road because I will not give up this campaign until my brother is freed and allowed to come back to his family in England.

"He has endured so much suffering emotionally, psychologically and physically - I won't rest until his nightmare ends."

He said his brother was the victim of a miscarriage of justice which started when he took a taxi while visiting relatives in Pakistan in 1988.

The family said the taxi driver pulled out a gun and tried to physically and sexually assault him.

In the scuffle that followed the gun went off, fatally injuring the taxi driver.

Sharia law

Hussain was tried and convicted of murder but, following an appeal, the death penalty was revoked and he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Following a second appeal, Hussain was acquitted of all charges against him by the High Court.

But when the case was re-opened in 1998 and he was re-tried under Sharia law by the Federal Shariat Court, the High Court's decision was reversed and he was sentenced to death again.

His case was taken up by the Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, who made representations at the highest levels in Pakistan.

Local MPs Greg Mullholland and John Battle and North West England MEP Sajjad Karim also joined the campaign to prevent the execution.

'Mood changed'

Mr Karim led a delegation of European politicians to Islamabad last week in a bid to support the Hussain family's appeal.

Amjad Hussain said: "I saw my brother in prison last week and was shocked how old he looked.

"He said he had lost hope until I arrived and then his mood changed.

"I haven't been able to meet him since but at last he is being told he will not be executed.

"I now appeal to President Musharraf and the authorities here to do the honourable thing and set my brother free."

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