SHC dismisses plea against detention in Pearl case

KARACHI:The Sindh High Court (SHC) has dismissed a petition challenging the extended detention of the men accused of kidnapping and murdering Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl, terming it inadmissible.

A division bench, comprising Justice Nazar Akbar and Justice Abdul Mobeen Lakho, on Monday heard the petition regarding the extended detention of the accused.

Ahmed Omar Sheikh, who was awarded a seven-year imprisonment, and the other accused — Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib — are still in police custody even though their sentences were overturned on April 2, according to lawyer Nadeem Ahmed. “They have been in jail for the last 18 years. It is unfair to keep them detained,” he said.

The petition, filed in the SHC, sought declaring the notification issued on April 2 on the second extension of the detention of the men acquitted in the 2002 kidnapping and murder null and void.

The accused have been detained under Section 11 EEEE (preventive detention for inquiry) of the Anti-Terrorism Act. According to the law, the government may issue a preventive detention of any person accused of terrorism for a period of 90 days and it cannot be challenged in court. The first notification was issued the day the men were acquitted and second one three months after they completed their detention period.

The petition stated that that the accused were in jail for the last 18 years. They were in jail on an accusation in which they were acquitted.

It stated that the interior ministry on April 2 issued a notification for their detention for a period of three months, adding that detention for such a long period is against the basic human rights.

The SHC had overturned the death sentence awarded to Sheikh into a seven-year jail term.

Accused Naseem, Adil and Saqib were awarded life terms.

An anti-terrorism court had sentenced the accused on July 15, 2002.

Pearl’s murder

Pearl, 38, was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in Karachi in January 2002 while researching links between militants in Pakistan and Richard C Reid, who is also known as the ‘shoe bomber’ for trying to detonate a shoe bomb while on a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001.

Pearl’s wife Mariane Pearl, a US national who was living in Karachi’s Zamzama, wrote a letter to the Artillery Maidan police on February 2, 2002, stating that her husband disappeared on January 23, 2002.

She said she received an email from the abductors, saying that he has been abducted in retaliation for the imprisonment of Pakistani men by the US government in Cuba and other complaints.

A graphic video showing Pearl’s decapitation was delivered to the US consulate in Karachi nearly a month after he was kidnapped.

After this, a case was filed against the suspects and 23 witnesses were produced in the case by the prosecution. Sheikh was arrested in February 2002.

An investigation, led by Pearl’s friend and former Wall Street Journal colleague Asra Nomani and a Georgetown University professor, claimed that the reporter was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, not Sheikh.

Mohammed — better known as KSM — was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and is being held at Guantanamo Bay.

On April 2, 2020, the SHC heard their appeals against the sentence after 18 years and acquitted Sheikh, Saqib and Naseem. It commuted Sheikh’s death sentence to seven years and fined him Rs2 million.

Sheikh has already spent 18 years in prison on death row and his seven-year sentence for kidnapping was counted as time served.

Pearl’s parents and the Sindh government, however, filed appeals against the Sindh High Court’s order. On June 29, the Supreme Court dismissed the Sindh’s government appeal, asking for a stay order in the SHC verdict in the Daniel Pearl murder case.

Source: The Express Tribune


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