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The parents of slain Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter Daniel Pearl Saturday approached the apex court against the Sindh High Court (SHC) judgment dated 2nd April, 2020.

Daniel Pearl was killed in Karachi in January, 2002. Anti-Terrorism Court Hyderabad Division and Mirpurkhas Division, Hyderabad on 15-07-2002 awarded death sentence to Ahmad Omer Saeed Sheikh and life imprisonment to Adil Sheikh, Salman Saqib and Fahad Nasim (Respondents No 2 to 4). However, a division bench of the SHC, Karachi, on 02-04-2020, acquitted Adil Sheikh, Salman Saqib and Fahad Nasim and modified the sentence of Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh and convicted him under Section 362 PPC, and sentenced him to seven years RI with a fine of Rs2,000,000.

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 the law and the benefit of Section 382-B, Criminal Procedure Code, 1898.

Aggrieved by the SHC judgment, the parents of the deceased reporter - Ruth Pearl and Judea Pearl - filed a criminal petition under Article 185(3) of the Constitution through Faisal Siddiqui advocate.

It was submitted that a bare perusal of the entire record of Special Case No 26 of 2002 reveal that there is plethora of incriminating evidence, both forensic as well as oral, which proves that murder of the deceased person has been committed and that all the accused persons have aided and abetted the murder of the deceased person. Thus, it is obvious and apparent that the impugned judgment is clearly erroneous because it is fundamentally based on misreading of the entire record of Special Case No 26 of 2002.

The SHC in the impugned judgment has 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. Faisal Siddiqui submitted that these facts are admitted, firstly, the deceased person was abducted. Secondly, 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. Thirdly, the deceased person was brutally murdered by way of beheading. It is further submitted that a bare reading of the impugned judgment makes it evident that the impugned judgment creates an artificial distinction between the offences of kidnapping for ransom and abduction in the facts of this case.

It is settled principle of law that abduction is not a standalone offence and is only punishable when accompanied by a particular purpose as contemplated in the subsequent offences as contained in Chapter XVI-A, Pakistan Penal Code, 1860.

He further submitted that the high court also erred in failing to take into consideration that the respondent no 3 and Ahmed Omer Shaikh have a history of involvement in international terrorism. In order to escape from this logical and legal connection between abduction and abduction/kidnapping for ransom, the SHC has relied on the speculative theory that the deceased person could have attended a meeting with Pir Mubarak Ali Shah Jeelani and then might have been abducted by someone else in the intervening period, which inference and example is absurd and irrational and based on no evidence at all.

The SHC has erroneously concluded that the judicial confessions made by the respondents No 2 and 3 were not voluntary.

The SHC has erroneously misread the evidence of the judicial magistrate. The truthfulness and the voluntariness of the judicial confessions are evident from the fact that the said judicial confessions are corroborated by the last seen evidence of PW Nasir Abbas and the forensic evidence of PW Ronald Joseph and other independent evidence which proved that the laptop of the accused person, namely Fahad Naseem, was used for the sending of the ransom emails and other independent evidence.

The SHC has erred in discarding the forensic evidence of the forensic expert of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), ie, PW Ronald Joseph, solely on the ground that the forensic expert had stated in his evidence that he was given the laptop, belonging to the respondent no 2, on 04-02-2002, whereas the witnesses had stated in their evidence that the said laptop was recovered on 11-02-2002.

He stated that the evidence of the forensic expert is clearly corroborated by the evidence of the independent witnesses, such as PW Sheikh Naeem and PW Mehmood Iqbal, which proved that the internet connection given to the respondent No 2, was used for sending the ransom emails.

Sindh Prosecutor General Dr Fiaz Shah on April 22 had challenged the SHC judgment, and made Adil Sheikh, Salman Saqib and Fahad Nasim as respondents.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020