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April 23, 2020

Daniel Pearl murder case: Sindh govt challenges SHC verdict in Supreme Court

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April 23, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Sindh government on Wednesday challenged the verdict of the Sindh High Court (SHC) in the Supreme Court about overturning the death sentence for British-born Ahmed Omar Sheikh as well acquitting three other accused in the kidnapping andbeheading of American Journalist Daniel Pearl. Prosecutor General Sindh Dr Fiaz Shah filed a criminal petition for leave to appeal under Article 185(3) of the Constitution against the impugned judgment passed by the SHC on April 02. The provincial government prayed the apex court to set aside the impugned judgment for being against the law and facts of the case.

On April 02, a two-member bench of the high court, headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha, had overturned the death sentence for Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was convicted 18 years ago by an anti-terrorism court in the kidnapping and beheading of Daniel Pearl.

The court had also overturned the convictions of three other men Fahad Naseem, Syed Salman Saqib and Sheikh Muhammad Adil in the case.

The court had held three of the four accused ‘not guilty’ while the prime accused Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh’s death sentence was converted into a seven-year jail sentence.

The accused had filed an appeal in the high court against their conviction by the trial court after finding them guilty of abducting and killing Daniel Pearl.

On Wednesday, the Sindh government submitted that the high court has erred in dealing with the legal question of burden of proof as the prosecution had safely discharged the burden to prove the guilt of the accused/respondents by producing cogent and sufficient evidence.

It contended that the high court failed to consider these important aspects while passing the impugned judgment, while the accused/respondents failed to produce any material evidence to create doubt against the evidence produced by the prosecution, rather the convict/co-accused Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh during remand categorically admitted his guilt before the presiding officer/trial judge that he committed the offences in league with other co-accused who also voluntarily confessed their involvement before the competent court.

“Hence the offences were proven that all accused in connivance with each other committed the offences and they are vicariously liable for committal of all offences including murder of Daniel Pearl,” the Sindh government submitted.

It further submitted that the court has failed to appreciate the aggravating factors involved in the case. On the contrary, it said the acquittal of the accused and modification of death sentence in the absence of the mitigating circumstance caused serious miscarriage of any justice and violates the principles settled down by this court.

It is pertinent to mention here that the trial court vide judgment dated 15-07-2002 convicted the accused Ahmad Omer Saeed Sheikh and sentenced him to death under sections 365-A, 302 PPC read with Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and Section 120 of PPC.

Similarly, the co-accused Adil Sheikh, Salman Saqib and Fahad Naseem were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment under Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. All were fined Rs500,000 each and in default of fine to undergo further five years sentence.

Later on, respondents and co-accused preferred Appeal No.67 and 66 of 2002 against the sentences and convictions while the state also filed Special Anti Terrorism Appeal No. 68 / 2002 for enhancement of sentence of life imprisonment awarded to the respondents/accused into death.

All three appeals and confirmation case No. 12 of 2002 came up for hearing before the Division of the Sindh High Court, Karachi, which were heard together and decided vide consolidated judgment dated 02-04-2020, which allowed the appeals of the accused/respondents and Adil sheikh, Salman Saqib and Fahad Naseem were acquitted.

The sentence of co-accused Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh was modified and convicted under Section 362 PPC and he was sentenced to seven years RI with a fine of Rs2,000,000 which shall be paid to the widow of Daniel Pearl and his orphan son and in the event that such fine is not paid he shall serve a further two years RI. Benefit of Section 382(b) CrPC has also been given to him and he has been acquitted from other charges.

The provincial government contended that the high court set aside the judgement of trial court on the basis of mere presumptions and hypothesis and acquitted the respondents/accused against the principles settled by this court on the subject.

“Hence, the impugned judgment is not sustainable in the eye of law,” it submitted, and added that the high court while giving benefit to the accused/respondents relied upon press clippings but the press clippings showing the confession of the accused Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh which he had been categorically made over before the trial court were neither considered nor appreciated.

The provincial government prayed the apex court to grant leave to appeal against the impugned judgment dated 02.04.2020 passed by the High Court of Sindh, Karachi in Special Crl. ATA Appeal No.68/2002 (Fahad Naseem Ahmed and others Vs. The State) in the interest of justice.