Islamabad, Jan 28: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed appeals against the acquittal of British-born al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in the sensational kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl in 2002 and ordered his release, a judgement denounced by the American journalist’s family as “a complete travesty of justice”.
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 links between the country’s powerful spy agency ISI and al-Qaeda.
Sheikh and his three aides – Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib – were convicted and sentenced in the abduction and murder case of Pearl in Karachi in 2002.
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 a prison term in India for kidnappings of Western tourists in the country.
A three-judge bench of the apex court led by Justice Mushir Alam on Thursday dismissed the Sindh government’s appeal against the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) decision to overturn the conviction of Sheikh in the Pearl murder case. The beheading of the American journalist in 2002 had grabbed international headlines.
The bench issued a 2:1 split judgment to uphold the SHC order by rejecting the appeals and ordered Sheikh should be set free, his lawyer Mahmood Sheikh told the media.
The court ordered that three others, who had been sentenced to life in prison for their part in Pearl’s kidnapping and death, also be freed.
Ruth and Judea Pearl – the parents of Pearl – criticised the judgment that would endanger the lives of journalists everywhere, said Faisal Siddiqi, the Pearl family lawyer.
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 family said in a statement. – PTI