Meet John Lucas Preston. He was born in Britain in 1970 and grew up in Leeds.
At the age of 18, he visited Pakistan… and since then he has been battling for his life.
On 17 December 1988, while travelling from Rawalpindi to the village of Bhubar, John claims that Jamshid Khan (the taxi driver he had hired for this journey) attempted to physically/sexually assault him and – in the scuffle that followed – Khan produced a gun which then discharged, fatally injuring him.
John immediately drove to the nearest police station, reported the incident, handed over the weapon, and led police to the scene.
He was later charged with murder.
(According to one judge who heard his case – and there were many, as you’ll soon learn – police planted evidence on John at this time and later doctored witness statements “when all negotiations had failed” – a clear reference to attempts to elicit bribes.)
In 1989 the local secular court convicted John of murder and sentenced him to death. John appealed, and a high court dismissed the case saying there had been discrepancies.
In 1994, a lower court then found John guilty again, and sentenced him to life imprisonment. John appealed this new conviction again at the high court, which in 1996 again dismissed the case and acquitted him.
The case was then referred to the Federal Sharia Court, which convicted John of murder and robbery and sentenced him to death; this conviction was upheld even though:
1. The court conceded there had been no theft (it could be shown John paid for the taxi)
2. There were no witnesses (as is usually required for such a charge and sentence)
On appeal in the religious courts this conviction was again overturned. In 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction and a subsequent appeal to that court failed.
In 2005 an appeal for clemency to President Musharraf was declined.
Under Islamic provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code relating to murder, family members of a murder victim have the right waive the punishment and accept blood money as compensation. Despite extended negotiations, Jamshid Khan’s family continue to call for John’s execution.
And that pretty much brings us up to date.
John has spent close to 18 years – almost half of his life and his entire adult life – sitting in a foreign cell or any one of a number of foreign courts. For most of that time, he has lived under a sentence of death.
His execution has been postponed a number of times following a variety of protests, interventions and negotiations throughout 2006. Most recently the date for his execution was moved to last Sunday, which was handy for John and President Musharraf, as this date fell during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Handy for John, because – if the tradition of not executing prisoners during Ramadan holds up – he gets to live until at least late October.
Handy for President Musharraf, because this gave him the elbow room required to keep scheduled appointments with leaders in Europe and Britain and see what pressure he would be put under to (finally) intervene in this case.
As it turns out, that pressure was not sufficient to warrant intervention, but President Musharraf did feel compelled to make this face-saving claim:
“I am not a dictator. I cannot violate a court judgement, whether you like the court or not.” – General Pervez Musharraf – President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
“The President shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority.” – Article 45 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
And this is all we get – even after a direct one-hour meeting with our glorious PM?
Well, in a word, yes…
10 Downing Street (28 September 2006): Tony Blair has welcomed President Musharraf of Pakistan to Chequers for talks on terrorism, Afghanistan and relations with India. The two leaders talked for over an hour in a private meeting. The PM thanked President Musharraf for Pakistan’s help in the investigations following the 7/7 attacks and its assistance in foiling foil the transatlantic terror plot over the summer. [Ed note – I just bet he did.] They also both reiterated their commitment to ensuring that the Taliban and Al Qaida are never able to re-establish a foothold in Afghanistan. The UK is the biggest foreign investor in Pakistan, and is Pakistan’s 5th largest export market.
No mention of a certain Briton about to be executed. At all.
Still, at least that last sentence goes some way to explaining why. Too bad they didn’t include other important market forces (for reasons of space, natch).
So why isn’t Blair under pressure to do more?
[Psst! Newbies! Trust me on this; it’s an important question. Our government is inclined to give valuable trading partners and/or allies in the glorious war on terror a hell of a lot of leeway… but only when it’s worth it and/or if they think they can get away with it.]
Specifically, why isn’t John Lucas Preston’s face splashed all over the front page of the Sun newspaper?
Why isn’t Rebekah ‘Red Mist’ Wade screaming for the blood of those who would dare to allow a fellow countryman to suffer such a blatant and disgraceful miscarriage of justice?
Well, let me give you a clue:
Everything you’ve read above is true… apart from the name.
John Lucas Preston is really Mirza Tahir Hussain.
He was born in Britain and raised in Leeds, but – when it comes down to it – Mirza is a bloody darkie, and simply not worth the bother.
And it’s not just overt racism at work here…
Attention all whities! Do me a favour, and read the following:
– John Lucas Preston
– Mirza Tahir Hussain
Now turn away from the screen and see which name you can best remember.
Mirza Tahir Hussain? Tch! His name may as well be Mumbo-Jumbo Something-Something (or perhaps even Jean Charles de Menezes).
Still, let’s be charitable and see if the good people at The Sun are – at the very least – granting
John Mirza a passing mention. After all, they’re constantly reminding us that we have no choice but to back Bush and Blair’s war on terror, as the only alternative is the worldwide imposition of Islamic law. Seems to me that a pro-war angle goes begging. Let’s see:
Nope. Not a sausage. Let’s try the shorter version:
Nope. Still no joy. Looks like Mirza is shit out of luck on three fronts:
Wrong place. Wrong time. Wrong race.
[Please note: If you or your loved ones suffer from a short attention span, this post can be summed up with a single image. Thank you for your time.]
UPDATE – See also: under|progress – The damning silence over Mirza Tahir Hussein