Daniel Pearl case: Pakistan court orders immediate release of terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh
A Pakistani court on Thursday ordered the immediate release of Omar Saeed Sheikh, one of the three terrorists freed by India in 1999 in exchange for the passengers of a hijacked airliner, declaring his detention in connection with the abduction and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl null and void.
The Sindh high court said the detention orders for Sheikh and three other accused in the case were null and void. While ordering their release, the court said their names should be put on a no-fly list so that they couldn’t leave Pakistan.
“These men have been rotting in jail for 18 years without committing any crime,” the presiding judge observed.
In April, the high court had heard the appeals of Sheikh, Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib 18 years after they were sentenced and acquitted Sheikh, Saqib and Naseem.
It commuted Sheikh’s death sentence to seven years in prison and fined him Rs2 million. Sheikh has spent 18 years on death row and his seven-year sentence for kidnapping was counted in the time already served.
However, the federal government issued a preventive detention order for a period of 90 days under which the four men continued to remain in custody.
The first notification was issued the day the men were acquitted and a second three months after they completed their initial detention period. It is not clear what line of action the federal government will take now, but it has opposed the release of Sheikh and the other accused in the past.
Daniel 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 freed by India along with Jaish-e-Mohammed 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.