SC rejects plea to stop release of Omer Sheikh, others in Daniel Pearl case
A three-member bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam announced the decision despite the fact that the provincial government’s representative argued that they would be in tough spot in case they were released.
Earlier on October 7, the same bench had rejected the Sindh government’s request to extend the period of suspending the release of those who had been acquitted in the case.
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 counsel for the accused said that the Sindh High Court had acquitted 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.
In April this year, the Sindh High Court had overturned the murder conviction of Omer Saeed Sheikh with reference of the kidnapping and killing of the Wall Street Journal reporter.
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. Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by an anti-terror court.
However, 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 in September, Pearl’s parents filed a separate appeal against the acquittal which was accepted for hearing by the Supreme Court.
Soon after the Sindh High Court’s judgment, the United States reacted strongly, calling the decision an "affront”.
"The overturning of the convictions for Daniel Pearl's murder is an affront to victims of terrorism everywhere," said Alice Wells, the top US diplomat for South Asia.
She welcomed indications that Pakistani prosecutors would appeal the decision on the British-born Sheikh. "Those responsible for Daniel's heinous kidnapping and murder must face the full measure of justice," Wells wrote on Twitter.