Daniel Pearl case | Pakistan’s Supreme Court rejects Sindh govt’s plea to suspend high court verdict

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition filed by the Sindh government to suspend a high court verdict that overturned convictions of al-Qaeda leader Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three aides in the kidnapping and murder case of American journalist Daniel Pearl.Also read: Opinion | Mockery of justiceMr. Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, was abducted and beheaded while he was in Pakistan investigating a story in 2002 on the alleged links between the country’s powerful spy agency ISI and al-Qaeda. On April 2, a two-judge Sindh High Court bench overturned the death sentence of British-born 46-year-old al-Qaeda leader, who was convicted in the abduction and murder of Pearl in 2002. He has been in jail for the past 18 years. The court also acquitted his three aides — Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil — serving life sentences in the case. The bench announced the verdict on the appeals filed by the four convicts 18 years ago. The Sindh government challenged the high court judgment and on May 2 the slain journalist’s parents also approached the Supreme Court against the acquittal of the convicts. On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected the Sindh government’s plea to suspend Sindh High Court’s judgement and said the petition contained irrelevant sections, the Express Tribune reported.“First of all, the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl must be proved,” Justice Manzoor Malik said. “Evidence must prove that the abductee was Daniel Pearl. The Sindh government claims that a conspiracy was hatched in Rawalpindi. What conspiracy took place in Rawalpindi must also be proved with evidence. Also read: Daniel Pearl murder: U.S. slams Pakistan court’s overturning of death sentence, calls it ‘affront’ to victims of terrorism We should be provided a complete record of the case, Justice Malik was quoted as saying by the paper. I want to look at all the records so that I can understand all the points. The apex court ordered the counsel representing the Sindh government, Farooq H. Naek, to submit the detailed record before the court for the case to be further heard. The hearing was then adjourned indefinitely. The Sindh government had sought time to submit the record of the trial court. The judge said that the court has to check whether the confession and identification parade was in accordance with the law or not.“The facts cannot be ignored, he added. Two criminal petitions were filed on May 2 by renowned lawyer Faisal Siddiqi on behalf of the parents of the slain journalist — Ruth Pearl and Judie Pearl — against the acquittal and release of the four accused.Also read: Editorial | Pakistan is the world’s most hazardous place for journalists The petition stated that the court erred in failing to take into consideration that Sheikh has a history of involvement in international terrorism. It further said that keeping in mind the arguments, the judgment is fundamentally based on a misinterpretation of the law and on a misreading and selective reading of the entire record of the case. Two days after the Sindh High Court overturned Sheikh’s conviction on April 2, the Sindh government invoked the Maintenance of Public Order to keep the convicts in jail.Mr. Pearl’s murder took place three years after Sheikh, along with Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, was released by India in 1999 and given safe passage to Afghanistan in exchange for the nearly 150 passengers of hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814. He was serving prison term in India for kidnappings of Western tourists in the country.

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