Upholding the Sindh High Court’s decision, the apex court of Pakistan on Thursday ordered the immediate release of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the key accused in the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl. The order was issued by a three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam. According to reports, one member of the bench had opposed the decision.
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three others had been arrested for the gruesome killing of the journalist, who was researching Islamic extremism when he was abducted from Karachi and killed in 2002. Sheikh was one of the terrorists freed by India along with Masood Azhar in 1999 to secure the release of passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814.
“The court has come out to say that there is no offence that he has committed in this case,” Mahmood Sheikh, the lawyer representing convicted terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh said after the SC’s verdict.
“Complete travesty of justice”, family of Daniel Pearl expresses shock at the SC decision
Meanwhile, the family of the journalist, which had approached the Supreme Court against the Sindh High Court’s order, expressed shock at the apex court’s decision. “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,” the Pearl family said in a statement released by their lawyer.
The United States and India have both expressed outrage over the ruling. According to media reports, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Supreme Court ruling in favour of Sheikh was an “affront to terrorism victims everywhere, including in Pakistan”. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the US was outraged by the decision.
Faisal Siddiqi, the Pearl family lawyer, said that in practical terms, there are no further legal avenues to pursue in Pakistan. He said that even if they ask for a review of the court decision upholding Sheikh’s release, the review would be conducted by the same court that upheld the appeal.
Nonetheless, the Sindh government has decided to seek a review of the SC decision, provincial Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said in a statement.
Sindh HC declares detention of convicted terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and others “null and void”
In December last year, the Sindh High Court had declared the detention of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib as “null and void” and ordered the immediate release of the terrorists. While delivering the order, a judge observed: “These men have been in rotting in jail for the 18 years without committing any crime”.
In the month of September, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had stayed the release of terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is the prime accused in the gruesome murder of Daniel Pearl.
Sheikh, a British national, was given the death penalty. However, in April last year, the Sindh High Court had overturned the death sentence and murder conviction of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. and reduced to a charge of kidnapping.