Daniel Pearl case: Pakistan court orders release of Omar Saeed Sheikh
Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of Omar Saeed Sheikh, one of three terrorists freed by India in 1999 in exchange for passengers of a hijacked airliner, while dismissing an appeal against the overturning of his conviction for the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam dismissed the Sindh government’s appeal against the Sindh high court’s ruling to overturn Saeed’s conviction for the 2002 beheading of Pearl and directed authorities to release him.
One of the judges opposed the decision, according to reports in the Pakistani media.
A letter written by the UK-born Sheikh in 2019, in which he admitted limited involvement in Pearl’s killing, was submitted to the Supreme Court about a fortnight ago. On Wednesday, Sheikh’s lawyers confirmed he had written the letter. Sheikh had denied his involvement in the crime for the past 18 years.
In an order issued on April 2 last year, the Sindh high court had overturned Sheikh’s conviction for killing Pearl, who was then the South Asia bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal.
The high court also acquitted three men – Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib – who were sentenced to life imprisonment by an anti-terrorism court in Karachi.
Following this, the Sindh government and Pearl’s parents filed separate appeals against the high court’s order in the Supreme Court. Sheikh was held in prison as the appeals were heard.
Pearl, 38, was 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, known as the “shoe bomber” for trying to detonate a bomb while on a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001. Pearl was later killed by his captors in Karachi.
Sheikh, a British citizen of Pakistani-origin, was arrested in India in 1994 and imprisoned in connection with the kidnapping of three British and one American tourists. He was freed along with Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) founder Masood Azhar and terrorist Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar in exchange for passengers of Indian Airlines flight IC-814, which was hijacked by a group of Pakistani terrorists from Kathmandu to Kandahar in December 1999.
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