Court orders immediate release of accused in Daniel Pearl case

Court orders immediate release of accused in Daniel Pearl case

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday orders the immediate release of four accused including Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh in Daniel Pearl case.

Although, the high court had acquitted the four accused on charges of murder in April this year but the provincial government had placed them under 90-day detention under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance.

On July 1, a fresh notification under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, was issued to extend their detention by three months and later their confinement was extended for yet another 90 days.

A two member bench of the SHC, presided over by Justice K. K. Agha directed the law enforcement agencies not to keep Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh, Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil under detention as the accused moved the court through their counsel against their continuous detention despite their release orders in April.

The bench also declared all the notifications of the Sindh government related to their detention ‘null and void’ but their names were placed on the ECL list and they were also directed to appear before the court whenever summoned.

The court also observed that the provincial authorities fail to justify the reason for the continuous detention of the petitioners while their detention was ‘illegal’ and they were in jail despite being innocent.

Daniel Pearl, 38, a Wall Street Journalist working in Pakistan, was abducted in Karachi in January 2002. Later, a graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US Consulate after a month of his abduction. Subsequently, Sheikh, the prime suspect, was arrested in 2002 and later sentenced to death by a Hyderabad anti-terrorism court while the three other men were sentenced to life imprisonment for helping him.

But on April 2 this year, the SHC modified Sheikh's sentence to seven years after acquitting him for the journalist's murder and convicting him for a role in the kidnapping only. The high court also acquitted the three other accused.

Sheikh, who had already spent 18 years in prison on death row after his death sentenced by an anti-terrorism court, was expected to be released after the high court verdict since his seven-year sentence was to be counted as time already served.