ISLAMABAD,(Reuters) – A Briton held in Pakistan since May was badly beaten in custody and is awaiting deportation after police failed to link him to terrorists and he was acquitted of fraud charges, his lawyer said.
Zeeshan Siddiqui, a 25-year-old Briton of Pakistani descent, was arrested in the northwestern town of Peshawar on May 15 after going to the police to report the loss of his passport, his lawyer, Musarrat Hilali, said on Friday.
He was arrested and interrogated about links to al Qaeda and beaten so badly he had lost the sight of one eye and the partial sight of the other, she said.
"The police interrogated him for possible al Qaeda links, but after failure in this regard, they booked him for forgery and fraud, saying he had a fake ID card," Hilali said from Peshawar, where Siddiqui”s trial concluded on Thursday.
"But the court found him innocent, and acquitted him of these charges as well," she said.
Riffat Pasha, police chief of North West Frontier Province, said he could not comment on the allegations of ill-treatment before checking the matter thoroughly.
"If any police officer was involved in such activities, strict action would surely be taken," he said. "But I”ll have to check that first."
In October, Siddiqui wrote to Britain”s Daily Telegraph newspaper rejecting reports that he had met senior al Qaeda figures and Shehzad Tanweer, one of four bombers who died killing 52 people in the July 7 attacks on the London transport system.
Hilali said that, during his detention, Siddiqui had been questioned by agents from MI6, the British intelligence agency, but had not been mistreated by them.
She said that, despite his acquittal, Siddiqui was still in prison awaiting deportation to Britain once he had been issued with a new British passport, promised within 24 hours.
"We are trying to complete the paperwork as soon as we can, so he can be sent back to his country," she said.
Hilali, who was recommended to Siddiqui”s family by the British High Commission, said reports that had originated in the Pakistani media linking Siddiqui to the July 7 bombings were absurd, given that he was in custody at the time.
"He was not allowed to talk to anyone, so how could he have been involved?" she said.
A spokesman for the British High Commission in Islamabad said Britain had not requested Siddiqui”s extradition and was not aware of any outstanding charge against him.
He said Britain had sought consular access to Siddiqui when it learned of his arrest and this was finally granted in August.
Hilali said Siddiqui had apparently fallen under suspicion initially because he had been in Peshawar with a group of Islamic preachers who travel from town to town teaching Islam.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, a key ally in the U.S.-led war against terrorism, ordered a sweeping crackdown on militants in Pakistan after revelations that three of the four London bombers had visited Pakistan before the attacks.
The crackdown led to the detention of hundreds of suspects.