Hussain, a British-Pakistani, claims he is innocent. He was cleared by a secular court but retried and found guilty in an Islamic one. He now faces execution June 1 unless President Gen. Pervez Musharraf intervenes.
His muddled case, spanning two decades, is emblematic of Pakistan's corrupt and bifurcated legal system, described by a leading rights activist as "flawed" and in desperate need of reform.
Mirza Hussain's family migrated to England from Pakistan when he was a boy. In December 1988, after training in Britain's reserve army, the 18-year-old came back to visit relatives living near Chakwal, about 56 miles south of Islamabad. On his way, he claims, his taxi driver stopped the car, produced a gun and physically and sexually assaulted him. In the struggle that followed the gun went off and the driver, Jamshad Khan, was fatally injured.
Hussain voluntarily reported the incident to police and was arrested. In September 1989, a sessions court sentenced him to death.
The high court revoked the death penalty in November 1992 due to serious discrepancies in the prosecution's case and ordered a retrial. In April 1994 his sentence was reduced to life in prison; in May 1996 the high court acquitted Hussain of all charges.
But a week later, while he was waiting for release, his case was referred to the Islamic, or Sharia, court on the basis that the crime he was charged of - "haraabah," or armed robbery - came under its jurisdiction.
In August 1998, in a split 2-1 verdict, the Islamic court's judges sentenced him to death again, although the legal provision he was tried under required a confession or witness to the crime. The prosecution had neither.
"It's a basic and fundamental flaw with our criminal justice system," said Hina Jilani, vice-chair of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. "There should be just one set of laws."
Simply amazing. Your thoughts?