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Blair asks Musharraf to stop Briton being hanged

Written by: Staff
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ISLAMABAD, May 18 (Reuters) Britain today asked Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to stop the hanging of a British man convicted of shooting dead a taxi driver 18 years ago.

Mirza Tahir Hussain, from Leeds, northern England, is due to face the gallows on June 3, two days after his 36th birthday, having spent half his life in jail.

''The British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, on her behalf and on behalf of Prime Minister Tony Blair, has written a letter to President Musharraf requesting him to commute the death sentence of Hussain to an appropriate term of imprisonment,'' a British diplomat in Islamabad told Reuters.

''The letter was delivered to Pakistan's Foreign Office today,'' a spokesperson for the British High Commission said.

Hussain, who is of Pakistani descent and according to Pakistani officials holds dual nationality, was arrested in Rawalpindi in 1988.

He was charged with murdering and robbing a taxi driver who he says had tried to physically and sexually assault him.

Hussain maintained that the man had pulled a gun on him and it went off during a struggle.

Hussain was acquitted by the country's High Court but an Islamic Court -- the Federal Shariat Court -- sentenced him to death by hanging in 1998. The sentence was later upheld by the country's Supreme Court in 2003, and a review petition was rejected a year later.

Several British parliamentarians have pleaded for Pakistan to exercise mercy, while the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission said there had been a ''miscarriage of justice''.

Amnesty International, which has also taken up the case and is on principle against the death penalty, noted that 31 people were executed in Pakistan last year, mostly for murder, and a further 241 were sentenced to death.

REUTERS DKS VC2202

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