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Daniel Pearl case: SC rejects plea seeking suspension of SHC's verdict

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday once again declined plea to suspend the Sindh High Court (SHC)'s verdict to...

Updated Jun 30 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday once again declined plea to suspend the Sindh High Court (SHC)'s verdict to acquit the accused involved in murder of Daniel Pearl, bureau chief of Wall Street Journal in Pakistan.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam, heard the Sindh government and the Daniel Pearl's parents' appeals against the SHC to acquit Pearl's alleged murderers.

Advocate Farooq H Naek, representing the Sindh government, told they had submitted application for early hearing of their appeal. However, the bench said they would hear them after summer vacation.

The counsel then verbally requested to suspend the SHC judgment as the MPO would expire on July 2. He asked the bench to allow the government to proceed in accordance with the MPO or give observation in that regard.

Justice Yahya said for acting on law whether the government required the court observation?

Farooq H Naek contended that the accused were international terrorists, and the government had detained them under MPO. Justice Yahya Afridi asked him how the accused could be termed terrorists after their acquittal by the high court.

The counsel argued that one accused in India, and other in Afghanistan had worked with the terrorist organisations. He said if the accused were released then there would be serious consequences.

Justice Yahya told him to keep in mind that one High Court had acquitted them, adding the accused had not seen sun for the last 18 years. Justice Mushir Alam said how without tangible evidence they could suspend the SHC's judgment.

He said the verdict could be set aside, if the prosecution succeeded in pointing out lacunas in it. The case was adjourned until the second week of September.

In the last hearing, the bench had directed the counsels to file complete documents i.e. ocular account, forensic reports, statement of the handwriting experts etc before the next date of hearing, and come fully prepared, particularly on the points that whether the abductee was the foreign journalist, the conspiracy was hatched in Islamabad, and that the conspiracy had to be proved with evidence, and that the persons arrested had committed murder.

Daniel Pearl was killed in Karachi in January, 2002. His wife, Mariane Pearl, on 4 February 2002 had filed an FIR at Artillery Maidan Police Station Karachi. Trial Court on 15 July 2002 convicted Ahmad Omer Saeed Sheikh, and awarded him death sentence, while Adil Sheikh, Salman Saqib and Fahad Nasim, were given life imprisonment under Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.

The convicts challenged the sentence in the SHC. The State also filed Special Anti-Terrorism appeal for enhancement of sentence of life imprisonment awarded to Adil Sheikh, Salman Saqib and Fahad Nasim in the SHC.

A Division of the High Court, Karachi, heard the appeals together and delivered the judgment on 2 April 2020 and acquitted the accused.

It also held that the subject case does not fall within the purview of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, and Omer Sheikh is entitled to both remissions in accordance with law and the benefit of Section 382-B, Criminal Procedure Code, 1898.

The Sindh prosecution on April 22, 20 filed an appeal under Article 185(3) of Constitution in the Supreme Court, while Daniel's parents - Ruth Pearl and Judea Pearl-on May 2 filed the constitutional petition.

It is their stance that the SHC wrongly held that the convictions and sentences awarded by the trial court to the respondents No.2 to 4, and Ahmed Omer Shaikh could not be sustained on the basis of the standard of proof, meaning that the prosecution has not been able to prove the case against the accused persons beyond reasonable doubt, and the benefit of doubt must go to the accused persons.

They have submitted that these facts are admitted, first, the deceased person was abducted.

Second, the deceased person was abducted/kidnapped for ransom as ransom emails were received and recovered.

However, what is denied by the Respondents No.2 to 4 and Ahmed Omer Shaikh is their role in sending the ransom emails but not the fact that the ransom emails were actually received. Third, the deceased person was brutally murdered by way of beheading.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020