Hopes raised for Briton on Pakistan death row

Tony Blair today expressed his hope of a last-minute “intervention” to stop a British man being executed in Pakistan.

The prime minister said he had raised the issue “constantly” with the Pakistani authorities, and “personally” with President Musharraf during his recent trip to London.

Mirza Tahir Hussain, a 36-year-old originally from Leeds, is due to be hanged on November 1st for the murder of a taxi driver 18 years ago.

Local MP Greg Mulholland has been campaigning against the execution, and used prime minister’s questions today to ask what Mr Blair was doing to help stop “this gross miscarriage of justice”.

Mr Blair told the Liberal Democrat MP: “I hope even at this stage there is an intervention to make sure this [the execution] does not take place. It would be very serious if does.

“There is a limit to what the president can do, but we will continue to make representations right up until the last minute. I can assure the honourable friend of that.”

Mr Mulholland has also written to Prince Charles – who is due to visit Pakistan with his wife, Camilla, from October 29th to November 3rd – urging him not to go ahead with the trip unless the execution is cancelled.

He said: “For this unjust execution to go ahead anyway would be bad enough, but to do this when Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, is visiting the country would be monstrous.

“I would urge His Royal Highness to cancel his visit if this terrible miscarriage of justice, the state murder of a man from Leeds, is scheduled to go ahead at that time.

“Cancelling the visit will send a clear and powerful message to the Pakistani authorities.”

Mr Hussain – who was 18 when he was arrested – has always maintained the taxi driver was killed by accident. He said the gun went off during a struggle after the man tried to sexually assault him.

He was originally acquitted by Pakistan’s high court, but was then retried and sentenced to death by an Islamic court in 1998.

The campaign for clemency is supported by Amnesty International, and has won the backing of several MPs, including Respect MP George Galloway who said he would travel to Pakistan if it would help.