Page last updated at 14:25 GMT, Thursday, 16 November 2006

Fateful trip sealed man's future

Mirza Tahir Hussain
Hussain has been allowed to leave his cell for two hours a day

Mirza Tahir Hussain was just a teenager when he left his West Yorkshire home in 1988 to visit relatives in Pakistan.

Three days after flying out from Heathrow, the 18-year-old Territorial Army soldier took a taxi ride which changed his life forever.

Hussain has always maintained the taxi driver, Jamshed Khan, tried to sexually assault him.

Khan pulled out a gun, Hussain claimed, and during a struggle the weapon went off and the driver was killed.

Death row yard

Hussain drove off in the taxi and turned himself in to the first policeman he saw.

He was later tried and convicted of murder but, following an appeal, the death penalty was revoked and he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1996, Hussain was acquitted of all charges against him by the Lahore High Court, but a week later it was declared that some of the alleged offences came within the jurisdiction of Islamic law.

His case was referred to the Federal Sharia Court, which reversed the decision of the High Court and served Hussain with the death penalty.

Amjad Hussain
The strain of Hussain's incarceration has taken its toll on his family

Since then, the Briton has been held in the death row yard at the high-walled Rawalpindi central jail near Islamabad.

He is allowed to leave his 12ft by 8ft barred cell for just two hours a day to walk around the forecourt - one hour in the morning and one in the evening.

He sleeps on the floor and spends the rest of his time reading the Koran, writing or talking to his two cellmates, who are convicted murderers.

He turned to religion eight years ago and has said he uses Islam to help him overcome his fear of death.

Relentless campaign

The family of Hussain, including his brother Amjad, have campaigned relentlessly to stop him being executed in Pakistan and ultimately secure his release.

Their plight won backing from Amnesty International, along with both UK and Euro MPs, the Foreign Secretary and a coalition of NGOs.

Last month, Hussain was granted the last of a number of stays of execution after the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed their concerns.

After 18 years behind bars, the news that Hussain's death sentence has finally been commuted has been greeted with joy and relief from his family.

But the family of the taxi driver killed by Hussain are reportedly furious with the decision.

They have always demanded Hussain's execution, and the mother of the victim has said she would set herself on fire if the Briton was not hanged.

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