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Pakistan fixer Aamer freed from UK jail

LONDON, England, February 2 – Pakistan cricketer Mohammad Aamer was released Wednesday from a British jail after serving half of a six-month sentence for his part in a spot-fixing scam.

The 19-year-old was freed from Portland Prison in Dorset, south-west England.

Aamer, then a rising star of world cricket, was one of three Pakistan players jailed by a judge in London in November over their roles in a plan to bowl deliberate no-balls during a Test against England at Lord’s in August 2010.

However, he cannot immediately return to cricket as he is serving a five-year ban from the sport imposed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for his role in the scandal.

Aamer’s mentor Asif Bajwa said he was in good spirits.

“What has happened is beyond Aamer and when I talked to him on the phone he was in high spirits,” Bajwa told AFP in Rawalpindi.

“He will stay in England for the next two weeks to discuss an appeal against the ICC ban.”

It remains to be seen whether Aamer can pursue his appeal against the ICC ban in the Switzerland based Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) or not after pleading guilty during last year’s criminal case.

Aamer’s family is anxiously waiting for his return.

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“We are happy at his release,” said elder brother Ejaz. “He talked to mother and other members of the family and was very happy at his release.”

Along with Aamer former Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt, 27, was sentenced to two and a half years for his role as the “orchestrator” of the scam while seamer Mohammad Asif, 28, received a 12-month prison term for bowling a fraudulent no-ball.

Mazhar Majeed, 36, the London-based sports agent who organised the scam was jailed for two years and eight months.

All three players are serving five-year ICC bans.

The scandal emerged as a result of an undercover investigation by now defunct British tabloid the News of a World.

Both Butt and Aamer had appeals against their sentences rejected in November, with England’s top judge saying they had “betrayed” their country.

Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge said Aamer was a “prodigious young talent with huge potential” that might be “irreparably damaged” by his time out of the game.

“This is, of course, his own loss and cricket will also be the poorer for the loss.”

However, “a short, immediate prison sentence was necessary and appropriate”.

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Last month, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Zaka Ashraf held out the prospect of Aamer returning to international cricket once his jail term and ICC ban had been completed.

“The PCB cannot side with anyone who has done wrong and because of them the name of the country was stained,” Ashraf said.

“Whenever Aamer is cleared by the ICC and serves his punishment, we think he needs intense counselling and then we will take guidance from the ICC about him on whether there was any hitch on his playing.”

Before, the scandal left-arm paceman Aamer had made a huge impact with his on-field performances. He took 51 wickets in 14 Tests, including seven at Leeds in 2010 as Pakistan beat Australia for the first time in 15 years.

Cricket is ripe for exploitation by fixers as there are so many individual incidents that can be manipulated during a match.

Much of the betting on the sport takes place in the Indian sub-continent, even though gambling on cricket is illegal in several Asian countries.

Pakistan and England are currently playing each other for the first time since 2010, in the United Arab Emirates.

Pakistan have an unbeatable 2-0 lead over England, the world’s number one-ranked side, ahead of the third and final Test starting in Dubai on Friday.

The series is being staged in the UAE as major international cricket has been suspended in Pakistan since an armed attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore in March 2009.

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