SC refuses to extend detention of Daniel Pearl murder accused
Saeed Sheikh (R), the father of British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, leaves with his lawyer Mehmood Ahmed Sheikh (L) outside the Supreme Court building after a hearing in appeal regarding the acquittal of four men over killing of US journalist Daniel Pearl was adjourned till October 21 in Islamabad.–AFP
The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the Sindh government’s request to extend the period of suspending the release of those who had been acquitted in the Daniel Pearl kidnapping and murder case, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.
In this connection, the Supreme Court refused to extend its previous orders and adjourned the matter till Oct 21 as a bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam heard an application on the subject filed by the Sindh prosecutor general.
During the hearing, the three-member bench observed that there was no hurdle in releasing the acquitted persons.
Justice Qazi Amin remarked that the court still regretted stopping the release of those accused in the Mukhtaran Mai case. They were acquitted as a result of their appeals but the court orders made them more time in prison, he added.
As the court heard the arguments presented by the prosecutor general, Justice Mushir Alam remarked that the provincial government had already kept them in detention through an executive order.
“We have nothing to do with what is happening outside the court,” observed Justice Qazi Amin.
The prosecutor general said the order related to the last hearing to release the accused was received on Oct 5 and, therefore, they could not prepare the required document.
He added that the central appeals of the case had been submitted but more time was needed to file more documents.
At this, Justice Qazi Amin remarked that they had accepted the appeals for preliminary hearing and deferred the release order till Wednesday (Oct 7).
The counsel for the accused said that the Sindh High Court had released three of his clients while reducing the sentence of another.
According to the defence counsel, the accused spent 18 years of their lives in jail and the Sindh High Court too had mentioned this in its judgment. They deserve immediate release as a reward.
Instead, the court found Sheikh guilty of the lesser charge of kidnapping and sentenced him to seven years in prison, which means he has served the jail term and should be released.
It also acquitted three others accused in the case: Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil, and Salman Saqib, who were earlier sentenced to life in prison.
Pearl, 38, was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story about religious extremists in Karachi.
A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate in the city nearly a month later. Omar Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by an anti-terror court.
However, the Omer Sheikh and others have not been released as the Sindh government not only challenged the judgment but also kept them in detention under Anti-Terrorism Act.
Later, Pearl’s parents filed a separate appeal against the acquittal which was accepted for hearing by the Supreme Court last month.