Saturday, May 18, 2024

Sindh Court Sets Free US Journalist Daniel Pearl’s Killers, All Four Rearrested

Four men whose conviction in the Daniel Pearl murder case was overturned by a court in the Singh Province of Pakistan were rearrested and Pak authorities said the government would appeal their acquittals to the country’s Supreme Court.

On Thursday the court had overturned the conviction of Ahmed Omar Sheikh, the mastermind in the 2002 abduction and killing of Pearl and four others after it reduced his death sentence to seven years, time he has already spent in jail.

The court decision was widely condemned by American officials and journalists’ groups. Welcoming Pakistan’s move to appeal on Friday, a senior State Department official said, “The overturning of the convictions for Daniel Pearl’s murder is an affront to victims of terrorism everywhere.”

All four rearrested will remain in detention for three months pending the filing of an appeal against the High Court’s order. The appeal against the order will be filed next week in the Supreme Court, the country’s top court, by the Sindh provincial government, as stated by the Pakistan’s interior ministry in its statement. Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan has also reiterated that its committed to follow the due process under the law to bring terrorists to task.

A division bench of the Pakistan High Court on Thursday gave its verdict overturning the convictions stating that the most of the witnesses in the case were policemen, and the prosecution had not been able to prove its case.

Most interestingly, the High Court dropped the charges against the prime suspect Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, also known as Sheikh Omar. The Court also dropped charges against the other three accused and ordered the release of – Fahad Nasim, Adil Sheikh and Suleman Saqib, who were previously imprisoned for life.

Sheikh was arrested in India in the 1990s for his involvement in the kidnapping of western tourists in 1994. He was one of three men released from an Indian prison after armed groups hijacked an Indian airliner in late 1999 and flew it to Afghanistan, where the then-ruling Taliban regime helped negotiate an exchange.

Daniel Pearl was the South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, was investigating armed groups in the city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh, after 9/11 attacks on the US when he was kidnapped in January 2002.

He settled in Mumbai, India after he was made Southeast Asia bureau chief and travelled to Pakistan, which he used as a base for reporting on the United States’ War on Terrorism following the 9/11 attacks by terrorists in 2001 in the United States. He was then kidnapped in January 2002 and a range of demands were sent to the United States for his release.

He was beheaded weeks later, and a video was released titled The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl, showing his beheading and mutilated body concluding with the captors demanding release of all Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, failing which they’d repeat such beheading again and again.

The decision of overturning of death sentence issued by an anti-terrorism tribunal in 2002 has sparked certain resentment and outrage, the United States, has denounced and condemned the High Court’s verdict of acquittal. The acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells has called the verdict an affront to victims of terrorism everywhere, and has stated that they welcome Pakistan’s decision to appeal against the verdict.

“Those responsible for Daniel’s heinous kidnapping and murder must face the full measure of justice.”

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the US would not forget Pearl, and will continue to honor his legacy as a courageous journalist and demand justice for his brutal murder.

-India Legal Bureau

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