Pakistan’s Sindh government has challenged in the Supreme Court the provincial high court’s verdict that acquitted British-born top al-Qaeda leader Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three others in the abduction and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl here in 2002.
Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, was abducted and beheaded while he was in Pakistan investigating a story in 2002 on the alleged links between the country’s powerful spy agency ISI and al-Qaeda.
The government of southern province of Sindh on Wednesday filed the challenge before the Supreme Court against the April 2 order of the Sindh High Court, according to Dawn.
The high court exonerated the conviction of Sheikh for killing Pearl. It acquitted three other accused namely Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib, who had been earlier sentenced to life imprisonment by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) of Karachi.
A graphic video showing Pearl’s decapitation was delivered to the US consulate a month later. Subsequently Omar Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by the trial court.
Sindh Prosecutor General Fiaz Shah moved the appeal before the top court on the grounds that the ‘last seen evidence’, ‘impersonation’ and ‘identification parade’ was proved against the accused persons and maintained concurrently by the trial court.
Moreover, the appeal pointed out that the video showing the committing of murder of the WSJ reporter has been verified by a public official (an expert from PTV) and was never challenged.
The collective proof along with the clear and categorical confessional statements of the accused and the co-accused (Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh), the acquittal and modification of sentence by the high court was not sustainable and was liable to be set aside, the appeal urged the Supreme Court.
Similarly, the evidence of natural and independent witnesses confirmed the demand of ransom made by the accused — a fact also stood proven through documentary evidence. As such the acquittal of the accused, as well as the modification of sentence to the extent of co-accused, is illegal and unlawful.
The accused persons acted to achieve nefarious designs and committed the offences that fall under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and this factum was also accepted and admitted by the high court in its judgement, the petition highlighted.
But the high court took a glaring contradictory view, while acquitting the accused and modifying the sentence of the co-accused — a decision which could not be sustained in the eye of law and thus caused serious miscarriage of justice, it stated.
Moreover, the appeal said, the accused persons failed to produce any material to create a doubt against the evidence produced by the prosecution.
Rather the co-accused during remand categorically admitted his guilt before the trial judge that he committed the offences in league with other accused who also voluntarily confessed their involvement before the trial court.
Hence the offences were proven that all accused in connivance with each other committed the crime and they were vicariously liable for committal of all offences, including the murder of Pearl, the appeal contended.
According to the appeal, the high court neither referred to nor considered the established impersonation of the co-accused Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh alias/Aka Bashir, corroborated through identification parade.
The voluntary judicial confessions made by the accused Salman Saqib and Fahad Nasim before the competent court were retracted on flimsy premises, yet the high court while giving undue weightage to such retraction did not consider the principles settled by the apex court.
The SHC did not appreciate that there was overwhelming incriminating evidence on record against the accused connecting them to the offences with which they were charged, it said, adding that they had committed offences they were charged for in league with each other with their common intention and object and were liable to be punished accordingly.
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