ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the authorities to shift Ahmed Omar Sheikh, a prime accused in American journalist Daniel Pearl murder case, from death cell to government accomdation by Friday.
A three-member bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Sajjad Shah, resumed hearing of the Sindh government’s review petition against the acquittal of Sheikh.
During the hearing, Attorney General told the court that the prime accused is not an ordinary criminal as he is a ‘mastermind’ of terrorists, adding that he will disappear if he is released. He argued that the federal government has power to keep dangerous criminals in detention.
To which, Justice Bandial remarked that if the government wanted the court to declare its illegal detention legal. The judge added that the court requires evidence for the allegations of terrorism against the suspect.
Justice Munib Akhtar said that it was not the dark ages that suspect will remain in jail even after spending 18 years in detention. He added that the face of the person who is killing Daniel Pearl in the video is not visible.
The court said that the family of Sheikh can visit him from 8am to 5pm while no mobile phone and internet service will be provided to him.
The government will bear the expenses of his family’s accommodation and transport, the bench ordered.
The hearing of the case was adjourned indefinitely.
On Monday, the apex court stopped the release of the prime accused in the American journalist murder case to hear the review petition.
Last week, Sindh filed the petition after the apex court ordered the release of Sheikh, who had been convicted of masterminding the brutal murder of Pearl.
The acquittal caused global outrage while the United States termed it “an affront to terrorism victims everywhere” and urged the Pakistani government to “review its legal options.”
During the hearing, lawyer of accused said that his client is innocent, adding that real culprits had been freed.
He reiterated that the officials have captured a wrong person under the American pressure.
The attorney general also submitted the arguments, pleading the court to suspend the acquittal of the key accused.
After hearing the arguments, the top court stopped the release of Sheikh and adjourned the case till tomorrow.
SC upheld SHC verdict
Last week, the apex ordered authorities to release Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh dismissing an appeal by the Sindh government against the Sindh High Court (SHC) order for his immediate release.
The short order was issued by a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam. One member of the bench opposed the decision.
“The court has come out to say that there is no offence that he has committed in this case,” Mahmood Sheikh, who represented Sheikh told media.
The attorney added that the court had ordered that three others, who had been sentenced to life in prison for their part in Pearl’s kidnapping and death, also be freed.
Meanwhile, the Pearl family in a statement released by their lawyer said, “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.”
On Wednesday, Sheikh told the SC he played a “minor” role in the killing.
A letter handwritten by Sheikh in 2019, in which he admits limited involvement in the killing of the Wall Street Journal reporter, was submitted to the Supreme Court nearly two weeks ago. It wasn’t until Wednesday that Sheikh’s lawyers confirmed their client wrote it.
Who is Daniel Pearl?
Daniel Pearl, 38, a journalist of The Wall Street Journal, was doing research on religious extremism in Karachi when he was abducted in January 2002. A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate a month later. Subsequently, Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by a trial court.