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Pakistan

Daniel Pearl murder case: SC orders release of key suspect Omar Sheikh

  • A three-judge SC bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam, directed to release the suspect
  • The parents of slain journalist Daniel Pearl say that the family is in complete shock by the Supreme Court ruling
  • Sheikh had already spent 18 years in prison on death row
Updated 28 Jan 2021

(Karachi) The Supreme Court has dismissed the Sindh government's appeal against the Sindh High Court's (SHC) decision to overturn the conviction of Omar Sheikh for the 2002 beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl, local media reported on Thursday. The court directed to release the suspect immediately.

As per details, a three-judge SC bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam, also directed to release the suspect.

Lack of evidence

During today’s hearing, the Sindh government provided sensitive information to the court in a sealed envelope. Advocate General Sindh told the court that Omar Sheikh has links with banned outfits. He added there is evidence but it cannot be proved in a court of law.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked that the information shared with the court was never presented at any forum.

The court observed, “How can we review the material which was never brought on record? If the authorities had information about the accused why it did not try him for anti-sate activities?”

The bench said that the government never declared Omar Sheikh an enemy agent. “No one can deny the war against terror but when this battle will end no one knows. May be it will continue for generations to come.”

Pearl's family shocked over SC ruling

The parents of slain journalist Daniel Pearl said that the family are in complete shock by the Supreme Court ruling to acquit and release Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and the other accused persons.

In a statement issued following the announcement of the apex court's decision, the journalist's parents - Judea and Ruth Pearl - maintained that, “Today's decision is a complete travesty of justice and the release of these killers puts in danger journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan.”

The deceased journalist's parents further urged the US government to "take all necessary actions under the law to correct this injustice.”

US willing to intervene

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US government is willing to intervene in the case, but it isn’t clear how it could do so. It stated that the US officials have been pressing Pakistani authorities to keep Omar Sheikh in prison.

The US had warned it would not allow a man who was convicted and later acquitted in the 2002 murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl to evade justice.

In a statement last month, US acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen said: "We remain grateful for the Pakistani government's actions to appeal such rulings to ensure that (Sheikh) and his co-defendants are held accountable."

He called the acquittals "an affront to terrorism victims everywhere." Rosen stated that if those efforts do not succeed, the United States stands ready to take custody of Omar Sheikh to stand trial in US. "We cannot allow him to evade justice for his role in Daniel Pearl’s abduction and murder."

The backdrop

American journalist Daniel Pearl disappeared on January 23, 2002 in Karachi. A videotape received by U.S. diplomats in February 2002 confirmed that the 38-year-old journalist was dead.

Authorities later arrested Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a former student at the London School of Economics, and three others who were convicted in July 2002. But in April, the Sindh High Court overturned the murder conviction of Saeed, a British Pakistani national, though it found him guilty of kidnapping Pearl and sentenced him to seven years.

The SHC had also acquitted three other men namely Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib, who had been earlier sentenced to life imprisonment by an Anti-Terrorism Court in Karachi.

Subsequently, the Sindh government as well as the parents of Pearl had filed separate appeals against the SHC's order in the Supreme Court.

Saeed had already spent 18 years in prison on death row and the seven-year sentence for kidnapping was expected to be counted as time served.