Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday resumed the hearing of an appeal against the acquittal of British-born al-Qaeda leader Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three aides – the main accused in the abduction and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam took up the appeal by the Sindh government and the family of the slain journalist against the acquittal of Sheikh, who had been on death row since his conviction in 2002.
Sindh government counsel Farooq Naek said that four accused including Sheik were arrested, while seven others were at large.
He said the accused had hatched kidnapping plot of Pearl in a Rawalpindi hotel. “They sent an email to the victim’s wife after kidnapping and demanded ransom money, he was quoted as saying by ARY News.”
Naek said the accused brutally killed Pearl after their demand was not met and also released the video of his murder.
I will produce details of the witness accounts in the next hearing, Naek told the bench.
“You should also point out the error in the high court decision,” said Justice Yahya Afridi, a member of the bench.
The court adjourned further hearing of the case till Wednesday.
In April, a two-judge Sindh High Court bench commuted the death sentence of 46-year-old Sheikh, who was convicted in the abduction and murder of Pearl in 2002, to seven years. The court also acquitted his three aides who were serving life terms in the case almost two decades after they were found guilty and jailed.
Two days after the Sindh High Court overturned Sheikh’s conviction, the Sindh government invoked the Maintenance of Public Order to keep the four convicts in jail.
The Sindh government filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the high court verdict. Pearl’s parents also filed an appeal to the Supreme Court against the judgment of the high court to release the accused.
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.
Though exonerated by the court, the Sindh government has refused to set Sheikh free citing that he could pose a threat to public order.
The case was adjourned on October 22 for four weeks due to the absence of Naek, who was unwell.