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Mirza Tahir Hussain

Husain Husaini | 14:56 UK time, Monday, 27 November 2006

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.

BBC Asian Network logoHe 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.

Mirza Tahir HussainWe 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.

Comments

For BBC Asian Network [including Ms. Sonia Deol]: This was one of the best journalistic pieces in the world. I also think that if it were not for Prince Charles, Sonia Deol, and BBC Asian Network, the story might have had a different ending. Sonia Deol [as well as BBC Asian Network] deserve an award for journalism.
I would also like to wish BBC Asian Network a Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  • 2.
  • At 04:48 PM on 27 Nov 2006,
  • Mark E wrote:

While there is obviously great interest in the human side of the story, I think that there are several points which are not being given their due importance.

The first is, should we really have a say in the ways that other countries decide to apply their laws? We might sit back and say how barbaric their laws are (and I think that some of the laws in this case ARE barbaric by our values) however, would we be happy if another country with different values tried to get us to imply their laws to their citizens arrested in this country.

The second point is that this case shows the danger of allowing religion to get too ingrained into the legal process. I hope that there will never be a time when the UK law courts are over-ruled by a "religious" court.

The third point, should our government be expected to get involved in problems like these? Anyone travelling to other countries is expected to obey their laws, and that they will be judged by their standards, why should they then expect to be able to fall back on the government if things go wrong?

  • 3.
  • At 07:07 PM on 27 Nov 2006,
  • anthony willmott wrote:

I am utterly disgusted that a convicted murderer can be treated as almost a hero on the british news only because a member of the british aristocary pleads for clemency. He complains of being harshly treated, my heart goes out to his victims family who are obviuosly greatly distressed about his release. May I remind everybody that our prisons are full of convicted prisoners who protest tteir innocence

  • 4.
  • At 08:57 AM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Sam wrote:

Seeing as he is a British citizen and obviously innocent i don't know why we didn;t send the SAS in to free him 18 years ago. Afterall whats pakistan going to do about it? Cry?

  • 5.
  • At 09:13 AM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Joe wrote:

A wonderful result for human decency over Religion, irrespective if Mr Hussain was actually guilty or innocent is the fact that this whole saga has highlighted once again the problems with 'religious' courts.
How can it be that a group of bigoted religious 'leaders' can sentence a man to death after he has been cleared in a court of law?.
I also wish to point out that the BBC has been totally useless in reporting these kinds of injustices, why is this?, is it because it does not fit the BBC's view of Islam as a non-violent religion/political movement?, the BBC has given virtually no coverage to the way these 'religious' courts treat woman who have been raped,yet it continually tells us that Islamic culture is the most enlightened, well I for one still wait to be convinced of this claim.
Finally my sympathies to the family of the dead man.

  • 6.
  • At 10:54 AM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Mark E wrote:

"Seeing as he is a British citizen and obviously innocent i don't know why we didn;t send the SAS in to free him 18 years ago. Afterall whats pakistan going to do about it? Cry?"


The fact is that he wasn't innocent, he admitted to killing the man. It is just that under our laws he would have got a lighter sentance if it was found to be self-defence. It is just that the Islamic courts didn't seem to take that into account.

How did you determine he was innocent? We only have his word for it that it was self-defense there do not appear to be any witnesses, and the story seems inconsistent (in some reports the taxi driver was trying to sexually assault him in others he was only trying to rob him)

  • 7.
  • At 11:32 AM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • pippop wrote:

This story does make you wonder why there are Muslims here in the UK who want us ruled by sharia law.

Members of the Hizb uT Tarir and Tablighi Jamaat take notice, is this what you want?

  • 8.
  • At 02:27 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Sam wrote:

Mark E:6

If he was assaulted sexually and acted in self defence in my opinion he was innocent.

As for the truth? Well look at it logically. A young lad goes to Pakistan, he gets in to a taxi and ends up killing the driver.

Why would he do that? What possible motivation could he have?

What possible explanation could there be other than he is telling the truth? In England he would of been given a suspended sentance and never served a day in prison and rightly so.

In cases of such gross injustice against British subjects i think we should take action, in this case we should of sent special forces secretly to release him. You might say thats 'unfair' against pakistan and against their soverigenty well considering Musharaff is a dictator resulting from a military coup there legal system has no legitimacy.

  • 9.
  • At 05:21 PM on 28 Nov 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

"The fact is that he wasn't innocent, he admitted to killing the man. It is just that under our laws he would have got a lighter sentance if it was found to be self-defence. It is just that the Islamic courts didn't seem to take that into account."

Mark E, I'm not privy to the evidence heard in the case, so I'm not going to argue with you about whether Mr Hussain is or isn't innocent. However, your view of English law is incorrect.

Under English law, a person who kills in self-defence (killing as a result of using reasonable force to defend oneself from harm) is NOT guilty of the offence. True self-defence does not merley mitigate a sentence - it serves to prevent one from being liable for the offence at all. Thus if Mr Hussain had been charged and tired in an English court, and had shown on the evidence that he had used force to prevent himself from being harmed, the force being a reasonable amount to use in the circumstances, he would simply have been acquitted.

  • 10.
  • At 01:31 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Mark E wrote:

In response to Andrew:

Claiming "Self-defence" does not automatically mean you are found "not guilty" of the offense. Under the law you are only allowed to use "reasonable force".

In some cases reasonable force CAN be considered to be lethal force but not in all cases. For example it would usually be considered unreasonable force to kill someone for headbutting you

Self-defence also only applies until the attacker is subdued, if you carry on attacking them after this then you risk being charged with assault.

There are legal cases where the jury has accepted that the defendant did act in self-defence, yet used force that was considered unreasonable. This would likely result in a manslaughter charge rather then a murder charge.

In response to Sam:

"As for the truth? Well look at it logically. A young lad goes to Pakistan, he gets in to a taxi and ends up killing the driver.

Why would he do that? What possible motivation could he have?
"

Hmmm! Lets look at possible motivations:

1. The taxi driver noticing he was from out of town tried to rip him off, Hussain got angry and threatened the taxi driver who then pulled a weapon to defend himself. They scuffle the gun goes off.

2. One insults the other and they argue which turns violent.

3. One tries to rob the other (in some versions it states the taxi driver tries to rob Hussain not sexually assault him)

It might come as a surprise to you Sam, but generally the defendant in a case lies. In this case we only have one side of the story. What possible reasons would he have for lying? Well he realised that he would face the dealth penalty if found guilty - that would be reason enough for most people to lie (if people lie to avoid 3 points on their driving licence you can bet your life that people will lie to save themselves from jail time or the death penalty.

  • 11.
  • At 02:20 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Sam wrote:

Mark

In every circumstance you describe he would not of been found guilty of murder and would of almost certainly been given a suspended sentance.

Actus reas in this case is not in question, however mens rea is.

Without mens rea there is no guilt. And given the circumstances he had none.

  • 12.
  • At 04:37 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Mark E wrote:

Under English Law he would have been found not guilty of murder, but depending on the actual details of the case may of been found guilty of man-slaughter, however he was not being judged under our law because the crime did not take place here.

Usually under our laws murder requires pre-meditation, but that is not the case under every legal system. Under many legal systems manslaughter (which this case probably would have been tried under in the UK rather then murder) does not exist as a seperate crime.

  • 13.
  • At 06:04 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Desiree wrote:

It's obvious from this piece that these day's being a citizen of any country (including u.s.)is no guarantee that you will get justice or protection by your country. Especially for non-whites.

  • 14.
  • At 07:52 PM on 29 Nov 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

In response to Mark E's reply; in my original response, I said:

"Under English law, a person who kills in self-defence (killing as a result of using reasonable force to defend oneself from harm)".

I accept that a person who used more than reasonable force to defend one-self would be convicted (though most likely of manslaughter by reason of provocation and not murder) - but such a person is not, in a legal sense, acting in self-defence.

  • 15.
  • At 10:01 PM on 30 Nov 2006,
  • R.Kind wrote:

A murderer does NOT automatically drive to the police and tell them about the murder they just committed. Wake up and see that this man was indeed innocent, he tried to do the right thing by going to the police and suffered unimaginable abuse for 18 yrs as a result. He is a British citizen and it is just shameful that the UK drag their feet over doing anything if you are coloured and left to die in a foreign jail.

  • 16.
  • At 09:40 PM on 02 Dec 2006,
  • ali isalm wrote:

i am utterly surprised to see a convicted murder allowed to leave without being punished.A question pinbchs me.Had my brother being killed would i alloy such a person to let go without being punished.I don't know expect this that once you commit a crime you should be punished.Infact he has ran away from Pakistan allowed by the President of Pakistan courtesy to the MR PRINCE.One can't feel the pain suffered by those who are feeling it.So its better to think about the family who has suffered and what they want.

  • 17.
  • At 10:12 AM on 03 Dec 2006,
  • Ragnar wrote:

"15. R.Kind wrote:
A murderer does NOT automatically drive to the police and tell them about the murder they just committed."

Bloody rubbish. There are thousands of cases where the murderer has turned themselves in.

  • 18.
  • At 08:55 PM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Aaron Olafson wrote:

Although I am not that familiar with the case, I have been reading all of the stories about this Mirza Hussain character and it seems to me that his story is consistent from front to back. I just hope and pray that he can lead a more normal life after being tormented in such a inhumane way for half of his life. Perhaps Mirza can write a book on his past experience and inspire others who may be or were once in his shoes. It can also help warn others who frequent those uncivilized undesireable countries.

P.S.
To Mirza Hussain and family, I pray everything goes more positive for you and your loved ones.

Sincerely
Aaron, Las Vegas, USA

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