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Daniel Pearl case: SC orders shifting prime suspect from death cell

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a review petition seeking suspension of the Sindh High Court’s acquittal verdict in the Daniel Pearl murder case.

A bench of the apex court headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial dismissing the petition and ordered the immediate removal of prime suspect Ahmed Omar Saeed Shaikh and three others from the death cell of the jail.

The court said that all detainees in the case should be brought to a common barrack of jail for two days and afterward should be shifted to a government rest house. The family members will be allowed to remain with the detainees from 8:00 in the morning till 5:00 PM, the court ruled.

The apex court resumed hearing after giving a one-day extension on a plea by the Sindh government to review the release of Sheikh Omar. The bench restrained the government of Sindh from releasing or issuing a new detention order of the accused.

Attorney General Khalid Javed appeared before the apex court bench and argued that the Sindh High Court has not issued a notice to the federation in the Daniel Pearl case. He said issuing a notice to the Attorney General was compulsory and the reason is sufficient to declare the high court decision void.

He stated that if the decision won’t be suspended it will bring along serious consequences. He pleaded to the court to suspend the high court’s decision. Justice Bandial stated the case hearing could not be deferred for a week and adjourned hearing.

On Friday, the Sindh government through its prosecutor general had moved a petition in the apex court, pleading with it to review its decision of acquitting the accused.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Yahya Afridi, had ordered Sheikh Omar and three other suspects – Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Muhammad Adil – be released forthwith.  A member of the bench had opposed the decision.

The suspects had moved the Sindh High Court (SHC) in 2002 challenging their convictions handed down by an Anti-Terrorism Court after finding them guilty of abducting and killing American Journalist Daniel Pearl.

The high court overturned the verdict of the ATC and acquitted convicts on April 2, 2020. The Sindh government filed an appeal in the SC challenging their acquittal.

Daniel Pearl was South Asia bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal and was researching for a story on religious extremism in January 2002 in Karachi when he was abducted and brutally murdered.