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Pakistan: SC refuses to entertain Sindh govt request in Pearl case

Tuesday 30 June 2020, by siawi3


SC refuses to entertain Sindh govt request in Pearl case

Nasir Iqbal

June 30, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain the Sindh government’s request to suspend the April 2 order of the Sindh High Court (SHC) which had overturned the conviction of Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh for allegedly kidnapping and killing Daniel Pearl, a journalist of The Wall Street Journal.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam did not accept the Sindh government’s request to suspend the verdict since no stay application was fixed before the court for Monday.

The court simply had assembled to determine whether to take up the matter during or after the annual summer vacation. Subsequently, the court postponed further proceedings for July 21.

The request for suspending the high court’s decision was made by senior counsel Farooq H. Naek who represented the Sindh government. He argued that the detention period of accused persons in the case under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) would end on July 2.
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The counsel pleaded that the accused were known terrorists and if they were allowed to walk free, it might have serious consequences because they had a history of association with terrorist organisations both in India and Afghanistan.

The court, however, suggested that the provincial government could extend their detention under the MPO. It also highlighted that the decision could be suspended after citing lacunas or errors in the high court’s judgement.

In addition to the Sindh government, the mother and father of the slain journalist — Ruth Pearl and Judea Pearl — had also moved appeals through senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui against the SHC’s judgement.

Earlier, the Sindh government through Prosecutor General Dr Fiaz Shah had appealed before the Supreme Court with a request to set aside the April 2 SHC order which had modified the sentence of Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh to seven years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs2 million. Sheikh is believed to be the mastermind behind the alleged kidnapping and killing of Daniel Pearl.

The Sindh government had expressed its apprehensions that the accused involved in the murder of Mr Pearl in view of the strong evidence might abscond along with the co-accused.

The SHC on April 2 had modified the sentence of Sheikh and acquitted three co-conspirators, namely Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib, who were earlier sentenced to life imprisonment by the Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) of Karachi.

Mr Pearl, 38, was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. He was abducted in Karachi in January 2002 while doing a research on religious extremism in Karachi. A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US Consulate after a month of his abduction. Subsequently, Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by the trial court.

Meanwhile, Ruth and Judea Pearl through their joint petition had pleaded that the high court erred in discarding the evidence of the forensic expert of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) solely on the ground that the forensic expert had stated in his evidence that he was given the laptop, belonging to Fahad Naseem on Feb 4, 2002, whereas the witnesses in the case had stated in their evidence that the said laptop was recovered on Feb 11, 2002.

It is submitted that in the present case, the evidence of the forensic expert and his forensic expert report clearly prove that the said laptop was used for sending of ransom emails, the petition pleaded.

Moreover, evidence of the forensic expert is clearly corroborated by the evidence of the independent witnesses, such as PW (Prosecution Witness) Sheikh Naeem and PW Mehmood Iqbal, which proved that the internet connection given to Fahad Naseem was used for sending the ransom emails.

The high court even erroneously discarded the evidence of PW Zaheer Ahmed by declaring him a chance witness, even though his independent evidence supports the fact that the laptop was recovered. Therefore, in view of the strong independent corroboration, the evidence of the forensic expert and his forensic expert report could not have been discarded solely on the basis of minor contradictions in the dates of his examination of the laptop and the same was liable to be considered as incriminating evidence against Shaikh, the petition pleaded.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2020