President Pervez Musharraf has refused to intervene to save the life of a Briton condemned to death in Pakistan for a crime he almost certainly did not commit. The last stay of execution on Mirza Tahir Hussain expired at dawn yesterday, and although the 36-year-old from Leeds was believed to be alive last night, he is now in imminent peril.
Hussain was framed by the Pakistani police, who "fabricated evidence in a shameless manner" against him, according to one of the country's most senior judges. His family has been petitioning General Musharraf for a pardon. But in an interview with ITV at the end of his visit to Britain, he said he could not overturn the death sentence.
The Briton, accused of the murder of a taxi driver, was acquitted by Pakistan's secular courts, only for the Islamic sharia courts to intervene and condemn him to death. He has spent the last 18 years in a tiny cell waiting to die.
"When he comes to Europe, President Musharraf likes to portray himself as an enlightened leader, but when he gets back to Pakistan, he is putting my brother to death under Taliban-style laws," said Hussain's brother, Amjad.
"I am not a dictator," Gen Musharraf told ITV's Sunday Edition. "I cannot violate a court judgement, whether you like the court or not."
This suggests he is ignorant of his country's constitution, article 45 of which states: "The President shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority".
Amjad Hussain said: "We are asking for Gen Musharraf to show mercy because that is the last option open to us to save my brother. The truth is that this is a miscarriage of justice."
Police planted evidence on Hussain and doctored witness statements, according to a 59-page ruling by Mr Justice Abdul Wahid Siddiqui, one of three judges at the final hearing. The prosecution introduced "false witnesses", one of whom "told a blatant lie" on the stand.
Hussain, aged 18, had returned to Pakistan in 1988 for the first time since moving to Britain as a baby. Arriving at the Rawalpindi late at night, he hailed a taxi to his family village - a trip few Pakistanis would risk with an unknown driver in the dark.
Later that night he led police to the body of the taxi driver. Hussain has always maintained that the driver pulled a gun on him and tried to sexually assault him. He resisted and in the struggle the gun went off, killing the driver.
Mr Justice Siddiqui said the police decided to fabricate evidence against Hussain "when all negotiations had failed" - a clear reference to attempts to elicit bribes. Hussain was "an innocent raw youth, not knowing the mischief and filth in which the police of this country is engrossed," the judge wrote.
There is now little keeping Hussain from the hangman. It is believed he may have a few weeks' respite because it is the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when executions are traditionally not carried out. But this is tradition, not law.Reuse content