Prisoner who denied guilt is given parole

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A MAN serving 14 years for drug trafficking who has always protested his innocence, is to be freed today in an apparent change of parole practice, writes Heather Mills.

Shamsuddin, who has served eight years, is one of the so-called Long Lartin 22 - inmates from the prison in Hereford and Worcester whose claims of injustice have been taken up by probation officers and civil liberty groups. He will be deported to his native Pakistan tomorrow.

Last month the 22 met Lord Runciman, who is heading the Royal Commission on the criminal justice system. Shamsuddin's freedom, two years earlier than expected, is seen as significant because protestations of innocence have generally been a barrier to parole.

Prisoners have to satisfy the Parole Board that they have come to terms with the implications of their offending behaviour.

Any denial of the offence has been taken as a negative indication and has led to prisoners who maintain their innocence serving many years longer in jail than those who do not dispute their guilt.

But while his qualification for parole has been welcomed by reform goups, there are concerns that his immediate deportation means that his claims will never be fully investigated.

Shamsuddin, 50, worked for an import company which was smuggling heroin hidden in handicrafts into Britain. He claims he was made the scapegoat to protect drug barons and corrupt Pakistani officials.