Musharraf urged to spare 'innocent' Briton condemned by sharia court

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Pakistan's President, Pervez Musharraf, came under pressure in Brussels yesterday to intervene to prevent a British man being executed for a crime which a secular court has acquitted him of. Challenged over the case in the European Parliament, Mr Musharraf gave a non-committal reply, saying only that he would "try to find some way of doing justice".

Mirza Tahir Hussain, 36, from Leeds, is due to be hanged on 1 October, despite an investigation in which a Pakistani judge ruled that the police had "fabricated evidence in a shameless manner". He has spent 18 years in jail for the murder of a taxi driver who he says tries to sexually assault him. When he resisted, the driver pulled a gun which went off in the scuffle that followed, killing the driver. Investigations proved that the gun belonged to the driver.

Although Pakistan's secular courts acquitted him 10 years ago, Mr Hussain was found guilty by an Islamic sharia court, which imposed the death sentence.

The president of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell, is among senior politicians who have joined human rights groups in championing the case. He has appealed for clemency, writing to Mr Musharraf that such an act "would greatly improve the image of Pakistan in the world as a country which upholds human rights".

But President Musharraf told the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee: "I have to adhere to the legal norms of Pakistan. I am looking into that and I cannot promise anything but let me assure you I will abide by the legalities of Pakistan. I will try to find some way of doing justice."

Amjad Hussain, the brother of the imprisoned man, said he was "dismayed that President Musharraf was refusing to pardon him despite representations by MPs, MEPs, human rights organisations, faith groups of all denominations, President Borrell and Tony Blair".

President Musharraf has intervened twice already to grant Mr Hussain a stay of execution just before previous scheduled dates for hanging. But he has failed to use his powers to grant a pardon or commute the sentence.

Mr Hussain was born in Pakistan but his parents brought him to the UK as a baby, where he took British citizenship. The death for which he was convicted happened in 1988 while Mr Hussain, then aged 18, was visiting relatives in Rawalpindi. Amjad Hussain said: "My legal advice is that the conviction of my brother can by commuted by the President exercising his powers under article 45 of the constitution.

"My brother has been in prison for 18 years. If remission is taken into account he has served the equivalent of a 37-year sentence. It is agony and torture. There seems to be no ending to the suffering of my brother and all our lives are on hold."