Pakistan: All convicted in journalist Pearls’ murder case acquitted

KARACHI: Sindh High Court on 2-April, overturned the murder conviction of a British Pakistani man Omar Sheikh convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. Curt also overturned the convictions of three other men who had been serving life sentences in the case.

At least four people were convicted in connection with Pearl’s murder, including Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was sentenced to death in 2002 for masterminding the murder. He has been in prison for 18 years awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

“The court has commuted Omar’s death sentence to a seven year sentence,” Khawaja Naveed, the defence lawyer said that the murder charges were not proven, so he was given seven years for the kidnapping.

“Omar has already served 18 years, so his release orders will be issue and he will be out in a few days,” Naveed added. The three others, who had been serving life-sentences in connection with the case had been acquitted, told Naveed.

Pearl, a reporter of The Wall Street Journal was kidnapped while investigating militants in Karachi on January 23, 2002, and later beheaded by his captors when their demands were not met.

The main convict, Sheikh, was sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing the journalist, and his three accomplices, Fahad Naseem, Syed Salman Saqib and Sheikh Muhammad Adil, were sentenced to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs500,000 each by a Hyderabad Anti-Terrorism Court on July 15, 2002.

The lawyers for the four men contended that the prosecution had failed to provide enough evidence to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that their clients participated or abetted in the crime.

The court had also directed the convicts to pay Rs2 million to the victim’s widow, Marianne Pearl. The convicts had filed appeals in the high court on July 19, 2002, pleading to nullify their sentences and conviction. The state had also filed an appeal seeking enhancement of the three co-accused’s life terms to capital punishment.

In 2014, an anti-terrorism court had acquitted Qari Hashim, a co-accused in the case due to a lack of evidence.

The same year, Sheikh allegedly attempted suicide in his prison cell by hanging himself with a cloth from the ventilator. The then deputy jail superintendent Majid Akhtar had told that the prison staff thwarted his attempt.

In January 2011, a report released by the Pearl Project at Georgetown University following an investigation into his death made chilling revelations when it claimed that the wrong men were convicted for Pearl’s murder

PPF