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Musharraf commutes Briton's death sentence

Mirza Tahir Hussain will instead be given a life sentence and he will be eligible for release having spent the past 18 years in prison.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2006 18:03 IST

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday commuted the death sentence of a British national in response to appeals by top British leaders, officials said.

Mirza Tahir Hussain, 36, from Leeds in northern England, will instead be given a life sentence and could be eligible for release having spent the past 18 years in prison.

"President Musharraf has commuted the death sentence of Mirza Tahir Hussain into a sentence of life imprisonment," a senior government official told the agency on condition of anonymity.

Britain's Prince Charles had asked that Pakistan commute Hussain's sentence, making a request to Musharraf while touring Pakistan late last month and writing to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Charles spoke to Musharraf on the issue during an informal moment while the two walked to the prince's car after an official meeting in Islamabad on October 30, The Times newspaper in London reported.

Pakistan had previously scheduled the hanging of Hussain to take place during the five-day royal trip but had delayed it by two months until December 31.

A spokesman for the British High Commission (embassy) in Islamabad said he had no information on whether Hussain's sentence had been commuted but confirmed that negotiations were ongoing.

A spokesman for the British foreign ministry declined to comment on the report, but said: "Her Majesty's government is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances."

"The British government has made a number of representations to the Pakistani government on behalf of Hussain at both senior official and ministerial level."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair had also urged Musharraf to commute the sentence.

Hussain has spent nearly half his life on Pakistan's death row for murdering a taxi driver, Jamshed Khan.

He claims he acted in self-defence after the driver sexually assaulted him.

He was convicted in 1989 but in 1996 he was cleared by a high court. However, an Islamic Sharia court took control of the case and imposed the death penalty.

Khan's family refused an offer of blood money, which would have revoked the sentence.

First Published: Nov 16, 2006 12:14 IST