Page last updated at 22:52 GMT, Friday, 17 November 2006

Death row Briton flies back to UK

Mirza Tahir Hussain
Mirza Tahir Hussain has spent half his life in a Pakistani jail

A British man who spent 18 years in jail in Pakistan has arrived back in the UK, a day after his death sentence was lifted.

Mirza Tahir Hussain, 36, of Leeds, West Yorkshire, arrived at Heathrow Airport late on Friday evening.

He was convicted in 1989 of murdering a taxi driver, but always said the killing was in self-defence.

His brother Amjad said Hussain had suffered "beyond belief" and added: "We are delighted and thrilled".

He said Hussain would need help to adjust to life outside prison.

Asked by reporters how his mother had reacted to the news of the release, he said: "She can't wait to hold her son in her arms."

Yesterday was wonderful when his sentence was commuted, but today we have the news everyone was really hoping for
Greg Mulholland MP

Mr Hussain said President Pervez Musharraf, who commuted the death sentence on Thursday to life imprisonment, "had shown himself to be an enlightened man who has rectified this miscarriage of justice".

News of his release broke on Friday morning when Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao told reporters: "Mirza Tahir Hussain... is a free person now and he can go wherever he wants to go."

Before Hussain was freed, there were pleas for clemency from the Prince of Wales, Prime Minister Tony Blair, European politicians and human rights groups.

The interior ministry in Pakistan said he had been released into the care of the British High Commission in Islamabad.

Death sentence

Greg Mulholland, the Hussain family's MP in Leeds, said: "Yesterday was wonderful when his sentence was commuted, but today we have the news everyone was really hoping for."

Hussain was originally acquitted of the murder by Pakistan's High Court, but an Islamic court sentenced him to death in 1998.

The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2003, and a review petition was rejected a year later.

But the government put off his execution several times, most recently until the end of this year.

Authorities had hoped a blood-money settlement, permitted under Islamic law, could be reached with the dead man's family.

But the relatives refused to negotiate, saying to do so would be dishonourable.

The family of the victim said on Thursday they were furious the sentence had been commuted and planned to appeal against the decision.

video and audio news
Family's joy at Mirza Hussain's release

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