ISLAMABAD: The Sindh government’s counsel Farooq H. Naek on Thursday cited the testimonies of a taxi driver and a police liaison officer to establish that Wall Street Journal journalist Danial Pearl was indeed kidnapped and later murdered.
The counsel argued before a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam that Nasir Abbas, the taxi driver who had dropped Pearl at his destination, had also identified Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh, the principal accused in the journalist’s murder case.
The identification was also recorded in the statement by Abbas under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the counsel said, adding that Pearl was never seen after the taxi driver dropped him at his last destination.
The SC bench consisting of Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Yahya had taken up a set of appeals instituted by the Sindh government and the slain journalist’s mother and father Ruth and Judea Pearl through senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui, challenging the Sindh High Court’s April 2 decision to overturn Omer Sheikh’s conviction for allegedly kidnapping and killing Daniel Pearl.
Daniel Pearl, 38, South Asia bureau chief for 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, Omer Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by a trial court.
But the Sindh High Court had on April 2 modified the sentence of Omer Sheikh to seven years and acquitted three other accused — Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib — who were earlier sentenced to life imprisonment by the Anti-Terrorism Court of Karachi.
Farooq Naek argued that Nasir Abbas had in his testimony acknowledged that he was hired by another taxi driver Faisal Afridi on Jan 23, 2002 when he was waiting for a ride in his taxi (Mehran) at the Do-Talwar area of Karachi at around 4.30pm.
Afridi told Abbas that both of them had to pick some passengers from Zamzama and drop them at Sheraton Hotel, the counsel said, adding that a foreigner with a lady had boarded the taxi of Abbas, whereas Mrs Pearl sat on Afridi’s cab.
Abbas first dropped Danial Pearl at the office of CPLC (Citizens Police Liaison Committee) and then at Village Restaurant near Metropole Hotel in Saddar. When they were waiting, a white Toyota arrived from which a person alighted and asked Pearl to sit inside the car, the counsel said, adding that person was Omer Sheikh who was also identified by the taxi driver during an identification parade on March 6, 2002, at the court of Erum Jahangir.
The next day, Afridi came to Abbas and conveyed the concern of Mrs Pearl as the journalist had not returned home, the counsel said, adding that both drivers then went to Pearl’s wife and explained the place where the journalist was last dropped.
Farooq Naek also read out the statement of witness Jamil Yusuf, the police liaison officer at CPLC, who had met Danial Pearl on Jan 23, 2002 at around 5.45pm.
During the meeting Pearl had received a call from someone and told the caller that he knew he had an appointment at 7pm and he would be there soon as the place was not very far away from the CPLC office, the counsel said, reading the testimony of Yusuf.
Yusuf further stated in his testimony that on research he found that the mobile number on which Pearl was talking to belonged to Imtiaz Siddiqui, a suspect who till date is an absconder.
Farooq Naek said Mrs Pearl had never been cross-examined as she was pregnant and left Pakistan soon after the abduction and killing of her husband.
The hearing was adjourned till Tuesday next week.