Mirza Tahir Hussain
Many Asian Network listeners regularly visit India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka to see family. So the story of Mirza Tahir Hussain really strikes home.
He says he was doing just that, heading to see his relatives in a taxi when the driver Jamshaid Khan robbed him at gunpoint and seemed to be about to sexually assault him. There was a struggle and the gun went off, fatally wounding the driver. Mirza Tahir Hussain says he then drove away before finding the police to report the incident. The police saw things very differently, accusing him of murdering Jamshaid Khan and stealing his car in an effort to raise money for drug dealing.
Mirza Tahir Hussain ended up in prison for 18 years, most of them in grim conditions on death row. The legal path he followed during that time seems convoluted and confusing. He was convicted before being acquitted by a higher court. He was then re-tried in a Sharia court, found guilty and the death sentence re-imposed.
This story was almost invisible until earlier this year when the campaign to free him led by his brother Amjad really took off. Amjad recruited MPs and MEPs. Prince Charles made representations on a visit to Pakistan and the High Commission in Islamabad embraced the case. As the story of a British Pakistani, we felt at the Asian Network that this was something our audience would want us to cover in depth.
We sent our reporter Sanjiv Buttoo to Pakistan to cover events as Mirza Tahir Hussain's execution date was set and then postponed again and again. We looked at the risks British Asians run when abroad and asked if they were all vulnerable to rough justice. We managed to interview Mirza Tahir Hussain from his prison cell on a smuggled-in mobile phone; a lonely voice pleading for his life. We also spoke to the family of the dead man - their anger over their own son's loss of life every bit as real as Amjad's desperation for his brother's release.
Once the news came that Mirza Tahir Hussain had been freed we really wanted to do the first broadcast interview with him. This was eventually secured by Sanjiv and done by our breakfast presenter Sonia Deol. You can listen to it here.
It's a deeply thought provoking interview. Mirza Tahir Hussain says the killing was an act of self-defence. The Pakistani justice system eventually concluded that it was murder. We have always tried to put both sides of the story. That's why Sonia questions him at length about the sequence of events.
Listening to Mirza Tahir Hussain now, it's clear how much he has suffered during his time in prison, watching his youth slip away, never knowing whether he had only days to go before the gallows. Whether that was justice done or a terrible wrong against him only he knows for sure.