Prime Minister told of ‘moral duty’ to demand immediate action from Pakistan

September 23, 2009

Image of Naheem Hussain and Rehan Zaman

Prime Minister Gordon Brown must personally intervene to help two Birmingham men languishing in a Pakistani jail, Clive Stafford Smith wrote in a letter delivered to Downing Street today.

Naheem Hussain and Rehan Zaman have spent five years in prison without trial; they currently face execution based on ‘evidence’ tortured out of them by the Pakistani police.

The Pakistani government has so far apparently ignored British government pleas for justice for Naheem and Rehan. In an urgent letter from Reprieve, Clive Stafford Smith asks that the Prime Minister personally raise the matter with President Zadari at this week’s Summit, noting that:

“We have repeatedly complained about this both to your government and to the Pakistan authorities…. Your government apparently raised the issue with the Pakistan government months ago. Absolutely nothing has come of it.”

The letter goes on to note the implications of government collusion in torture:

“Of course, every sensible person would support a free and democratic Pakistan. However, in Pakistan as in Afghanistan, the credibility of ‘democracy’ is being drastically undermined by the corrupt practices of government officials. Nothing could be more ‘corrupt’ than torture. What Pakistani citizen is going to trust a government that turns a blind eye to torture being committed daily by the police authorities?

“There are two duties here: The obligation on the British Government to ensure that British nationals are not subjected to the kind of torture Naheem and Rehan endured at Dadyal police station; and the obligation on the Pakistan Government to put a stop to torture in its own backyard.”

The full letter is here.

Case details at www.reprieve.org.uk/naheemhussainrehanzaman or below. For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674.

Notes for Editors:

CASE BACKGROUND

After more than five years in prison without trial and having suffered torture at the hands of the police, Naheem Hussain and Rehan Zaman are currently facing execution in Pakistan.

The case against Naheem and Rehan is extraordinarily weak and stems from a dispute concerning Naheem’s family land in Pakistan. Naheem’s father, Fazal, was born and raised on this family land in the village of Ratta, in Azad-Kashmir. When Fazal moved to the UK, where he spent his working life as a small-business owner in Birmingham, he left the land in the care of his step-sister.

Many years later Fazal retired and returned to the village, taking his son Naheem with him. Confusion arose about the ownership of the family land; Fazal gathered documentation and called a family meeting. Shortly before the meeting two family members – Fazal’s step-sister’s husband and her son – were both shot. The police arrested Fazal, Naheem and Naheem’s friend Rehan Zaman. The police said the land dispute provided the men with a motive, while Fazal and Naheem believe they were set up in an attempt to take the land.

Strong evidence suggests that Naheem and Rehan are not guilty. At Didyal police station, the police beat Naheem savagely and jumped on his stomach with boots on; Fazal and Rehan heard him screaming through the walls. When Naheem failed to confess, the police tortured all three men relentlessly for two weeks, frequently beating Naheem and Fazal in front of each other, which both father and son found particularly distressing. Techniques used included falaka (whipping the foot with a rod or cane rendering them unable to walk), ‘inverse strappado’ (being hung from a hook and kicked and punched repeatedly, causing shoulders to dislocate), cigarettes extinguished on their skin and fingernails pulled out. Others involved ropes used to pull their legs apart and wood turned like a garrotte to effectively paralyze the legs. The men frequently passed out and water was thrown on them until they revived. The police also threatened to simply shoot them, explaining to Rehan that they would get away with it because they would claim that they tried to escape.

After two weeks, Naheem and Rehan were taken to a graveyard and told to confess; they were told that Naheem’s wife and mother – and Rehan’s 80-year-old grandmother – would be arrested and tortured. Two guns had been planted in the graveyard, which the men were forced to identify as the murder weapons; later ballistics testing proved that these guns could not have been used in the crimes. Meanwhile Fazal also cracked; the police were threatening to nail Naheem to a tree. Desperate to see his son’s suffering end, Faisal wrote the Police Chief a cheque for over £10,000 and signed a ‘confession’ stating that he had instigated the murders. Naheem was also forced to sign a document, although he was unable to read it as it was written in Urdu.

Having obtained their ‘evidence’, the police transferred all three men to Mirpur prison; en route, the six policemen insisted that they stop off at a hotel for a large meal and forced Fazal to pay. Later, the driver confronted Fazal’s family, demanding 2,500 rupees for having driven the transfer van. In Mirpur prison, Fazal’s weight dropped by more than half to around 6 stone and when he became too weak to walk he was granted bail due to his ill health. Diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma, Fazal returned to Birmingham to receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Five years later, life in Mirpur is very hard for Naheem and Rehan. Naheem shares a 30’ x 15’ cell with about 40 other prisoners and Rehan shown signs of deep depression. Both men miss their families greatly and request reading materials that remind them of the UK; Naheem is currently reading Harry Potter and Rehan enjoys National Geographic.

REPRIEVE

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

Reprieve
PO Box 52742
London EC4P 4WS
Tel: 020 7353 4640
Fax: 020 7353 4641
Email: info@reprieve.org.uk
Website: www.reprieve.org.uk

Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900, Registered Company No. 5777831 (England)
Registered Office: 2-6 Cannon Street, London EC4M 6YH;
Chair: Lord Bingham; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner