Page last updated at 00:08 GMT, Saturday, 18 November 2006

Death row man 'glad to be home'

Mirza Tahir Hussain at Heathrow Airport
Mirza Tahir Hussain said his freedom is "a great gift"

A British man who was sentenced to death in Pakistan has spoken of his relief after arriving back in the UK.

Mirza Tahir Hussain, 36, from Leeds, arrived at Heathrow Airport late on Friday evening, having spent 18 years in prison.

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

Mr Hussain thanked those who campaigned for his release and added: "I am glad to be home."

Shortly after landing at Heathrow, a day after Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf commuted the death sentence, Mr Hussain said he was looking forward to seeing his family in Leeds.

My thoughts remain with all the prisoners I have left behind
Mirza Tahir Hussain

In a statement read on his behalf by MEP Sajjad Haider Karim, he said: "It has been a tremendous strain to be separated from my family and loved ones.

"Freedom is a great gift. I want to use this freedom to get to know my family again, to adjust back to living here and to come to terms with my ordeal.

"My thoughts remain with all the prisoners I have left behind."

Mr Hussain thanked those who helped win his release including President Musharraf, Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Prince of Wales and the Muslim Council of Britain.

Originally acquitted of the murder by Pakistan's High Court, an Islamic court sentenced Mr Hussain to death in 1998.

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.

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
Statement on behalf of Mirza Tahir Hussain

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