Briton freed from three-year ordeal in Pakistani jail

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The Independent Online

A British businessman who was accused of drug smuggling in Pakistan, imprisoned without trial and tortured has been released on bail and may soon be allowed to return home.

Three years ago, David Dufaur was arrested by Pakistani anti-drug officers, who hung him upside down and beat him in an attempt to wring a confession out of him. Since then, Mr Dufaur, who says he is innocent, has lived in a 10-foot-long cell which he shares with seven other prisoners.

Pakistani officials have now let Mr Dufaur go free – perhaps partly in response to a BBC broadcast about the case five weeks ago. The 54-year-old gem dealer from south London said that what he had experienced at the Landhi jail in Karachi was a "horrendous ordeal from start to finish".

"I was sleeping on the floor for three years and the toilet was a hole in the ground," he said. "Last night I had my first hot bath for three years and it was wonderful."

Mr Dufaur said he was badly beaten by investigators. "When I was first arrested they tried to force a confession out of me. I was blindfolded and tortured. I was hung upside down and they beat the soles of my feet."

In all, he stayed in the rat-infested cell for three years and 37 days. Under Pakistan's legal system, he must stay in the country for a further hearing. His lawyers hope that it will take place in the next few months and that the charges will be dropped.

After the BBC broadcast about Mr Dufaur, scores of people offered support to his family. He also been backed by the prisoners' rights charity Fair Trials Abroad.

A spokeswoman for the charity, Sabine Zanker, said Fair Trials Abroad and Mr Dufaur's family were "very delighted" by the decision to free him on bail.

"We're now very hopeful that the case will be dropped and he will be able to return to Great Britain," she said. "The fact that he was held without trial was obviously something that very much concerned us."

Mr Dufaur, who has four children, was living with his wife Sonia in a large semi-detached house in Selsdon, near Croydon, before he went to Pakistan. During the time he has been held in custody she was forced to sell their home to help pay for his legal fees. She now lives in a small flat in Parsons Green, West London.

Speaking before her husband's release was reported, Mrs Dufaur said: "It has been an absolute nightmare. I don't know how David has coped. I never would have thought an innocent man could have been held in a prison for so long."

A Briton who met Mr Dufaur when he was also held on drug smuggling charges said he was delighted by the news. "He phoned me at nine o'clock in the morning to tell me he was out. I don't drink a lot, but I opened a bottle of champagne on the spot," said John Bernard Sender, 42, from Hastings, East Sussex. "Other people will never be able to visualise the terrible conditions a person is incarcerated in over there."

Mr Sender spent two years and two months in Landhi jail. He maintains his innocence and said he entered a guilty plea only after prosecutors offered a plea bargain in which he would be freed within a month if he admitted the charges.