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Supreme Court halts release of suspects in Daniel Pearl murder case

  • The Sindh government has been instructed to suspend release orders of Omar Sheikh and others
  • The SC's verdict comes after the Sindh government moved a review petition in the top court against acquittal of the accused
Published February 1, 2021
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(Karachi) Supreme Court of Pakistan has halted the release of prime suspect in Daniel Pearl murder case, Omar Sheikh, and others for 24 hours, local media reported on Monday.

As per details, the Sindh government has been instructed to suspend release orders of Sheikh and others. He was expected to be released on Tuesday (tomorrow). The court also restricted the Sindh government from issuing any extension in the detention orders of the accused.

The SC's verdict comes after the Sindh government moved a review petition in the top court against acquittal of the accused.

US reaction

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that America is ready to prosecute prime suspect in Daniel Pearl murder case Omar Saeed Sheikh in US courts, local media reported on Friday.

Blinken's statement comes in wake of Supreme Court of Pakistan's ruling to acquit and release Sheikh and other accused in the case.

On January 28, a three-judge Supreme Court bench acquitted Sheikh by extending the benefit of the doubt to him and ordered his release. The Supreme Court issued the verdict on a petition filed by the Sindh government and Pearl's parents against a Sindh High Court (SHC) order for Sheikh's acquittal and immediate release.

US prepared to prosecute Sheikh

The US secretary of state said he was "deeply concerned by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision to acquit those involved in Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder and any proposed action to release them".

“We are also prepared to prosecute Sheikh in the United States for his horrific crimes against an American citizen," he added.

Blinken maintained, "We are committed to securing justice for Daniel Pearl’s family and holding terrorists accountable.”

He termed the verdict as an "affront to terrorism victims everywhere" and said that the US expected Pakistan's authorities to “expeditiously review its legal options to ensure justice is served”.

“The court’s decision is an affront to terrorism victims everywhere, including in Pakistan. The United States recognises past Pakistani actions to hold Omar Sheikh accountable and notes that Sheikh currently remains detained under Pakistani law,” he said.

Case proceedings

During the case 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.”

Travesty of justice

After the top court's verdict, 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.”

The background

American journalist Daniel Pearl disappeared on January 23, 2002 in Karachi. A videotape received by US 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.


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