16 November, 2006

Mirza Tahir Hussain reprieved. (updated)

Mirza Tahir Hussain is the British citizen sentenced to death in Pakistan by a sharia court after being found not guilty by a criminal court. Now, following a behind the scenes intervention by Prince Charles, President Musharraf has commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. According to The Nation:

Musharraf commuted the sentence under Article 45 of the Constitution of Pakistan that states: “The President shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by a court, tribunal or authority”.
The BBC says that Hussain, who has now spent 18 years in jail, could now be eligible for release. The Times reports that:
The decision to show mercy comes shortly after the Prince of Wales took the rare step of appealing to President Musharraf for Hussain’s life when he visited the country last month. The request was reported to have come in an informal moment as the two men walked to the Prince’s car after their official meeting in Islamabad on October 30. The formal announcement, expected today, will be in time for Tony Blair’s arrival next week.
The "informal moment" is a clever propaganda touch but a British embassy official let slip to an Asian journalist that negotiations have been going on over Hussain's future.

Perhaps Blair's visit will provide a politically circumspect occasion for Hussain's release.

It remains scandalous that the religious police can convict an individual for a crime of which he has already been found innocent by the legal system.

Update 16:11:06@21:21
The Pakistan Times reports the release without comment and notes that the manner and date of Hussain's release is a matter for the Law ministry. At the time of posting, neither the Daily Times nor Dawn references the story. Lahore Press links to an extensive set of links at World News If anybody is interested in rooting around further, here is the list of press links I use for Pakistan. I suspect the issue of Sharia law is currently so sensitive in Pakistan that the Pakistani press are working on the principle of leave well alone.

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