Death row Brit arrives home

The bearded, greying 36-year-old sat before television cameras at London’s Heathrow Airport as his local European lawmaker, Sajjad Karim, read out a statement thanking those who helped secure his freedom.

“It has been a tremendous strain to be separated from my family and loved ones.

“I thank God for giving me the faith and strength to persevere.

“Freedom is a great gift.

“I want to use this freedom to get to know my family again, to adjust back to living here and to come to terms with my ordeal,” the statement said.

Afterwards, Mirza Tahir Hussain himself spoke briefly in a weak voice to add: “I’m glad to be back home, thank you very much”, before wiping away tears and leaving the room.

The statement had also thanked Pakistan’s President, Pervez Musharraf, for showing “courage and leadership” in releasing him, as well as Britain’s Prince Charles and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

He touched down the day after his murder conviction was commuted and he was released for time served following lobbying by his family and others.

Earlier Friday, his brother Amjad Hussain told reporters that Mirza Tahir Hussain was “overjoyed” at his release and said their mother was looking forward to holding him in her arms again.

But he warned that his brother — who was incarcerated aged 18, has spent half his life behind bars and seen his execution stayed four times — will take time to adjust to life back home.

“He has to make that transition,” he said at a press conference at Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre in east London. “He will need help, counselling and rehabilitation.

“He’s paid a terrible price for something that he never did.”

The dual British-Pakistani national, from Leeds in northern England, killed taxi driver Jamshed Khan in 1988 shortly after arriving in Pakistan to visit family.

He claims he acted in self-defence after the driver sexually assaulted him.

He was convicted in 1989 and cleared by a high court in 1996 before an Islamic Sharia court took control of the case and sentenced him to hang.

Hussain’s death sentence was commuted to life, which officials say in Pakistan is usually 25 years, but that he had served enough time in prison because of Muslim holidays and good behaviour to be released.

Pakistan had scheduled Hussain to be hanged during a visit by Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, earlier this month before delaying his death sentence for two months to December 31.

Amjad Hussain also acknowledged the role of Charles and others in securing his brother’s release and thanked to Pakistan’s President, Pervez Musharraf, and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz for their “courageous and bold decision”.

He also warned Khan’s family, who have spoken out against the move, of the futility of appealing Musharraf’s decision.

“They (Khan’s family) are terribly ill-advised to appeal. It’s irreversible. There’s no appeal process against the executive decision. It’s like a royal pardon, he said.

But he expressed hope that the family, who he said had rejected an offer of “blood money”, could eventually find peace.

“If they search deep in their heart, they will know that their son too was on the wrong path,” he said.

“Because of him, my family has suffered. My doors have been open to them and they refused.”

Blair is due to visit Pakistan — a key ally in the fight against global extremism — by the end of the month, the Pakistan government said on November 2.

The British Prime Minister raised the case with Musharraf when the pair last met in September.