ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court of Pakistan Wednesday rejected the Sindh government’s request to further extend the detention period of the four accused in the US journalist Daniel Pearl’s murder case.  

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Mushir Alam conducted hearing of the appeals of Sindh government and Daniel Pearl’s parents against the SHC verdict to acquit the alleged murderers of Daniel Pearl and adjourned the hearing in the murder case. 

On the last hearing, the court had accepted the appeals and extended the detention of Umer Saeed Sheikh and others. However, the bench said that they cannot further order to keep the accused in detention.

During the hearing, Sindh prosecutor general requested the court to grant some time to prepare the case and requested that detention of the four accused may be extended.

However, the bench dismissed the request stating that the Sindh government has already extended the detention by three months and the court could not extend it further.

Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed said that in Mukhtaran Mai rape case the apex court had ordered not to release the accused till the final disposal of their appeals. He said that ultimately they were released. He added because of the court order they had remained in jail, which the top court regrets.

The bench said that there is no hurdle from the Supreme Court side to release the accused. 

Justice Mushir said that the government had kept them in detention under MPO. 

Justice Qazi Amin said that they have no concern what is happening outside the court. 

Daniel Pearl was killed in Karachi in January, 2002. His wife Mariane Pearl on 04.02.2002 had filed an FIR at Artillery Maidan Police Station Karachi. Trial Court on 15-07-2002 convicted Ahmad Omer Saeed Sheikh and awarded him death sentence, while Adil Sheikh, Salman Saqib and Fahad Nasim were given life imprisonment under Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.

The convicts challenged the sentence in the Sindh High Court. The State also filed Special Anti Terrorism appeal for enhancement of sentence of life imprisonment awarded to Adil Sheikh, Salman Saqib and Fahad Nasim in the SHC. 

A Division of the High Court, Karachi, heard the appeals together and delivered the judgment on 02-04-2020 acquitted the accused. It also held that the subject case does not fall within the purview of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and Umer Sheikh is entitled to both remissions in accordance with law and the benefit of Section 382-B, Criminal Procedure Code, 1898.

Umer Sheikh, who had already spent 18 years in prison on death row after being sentenced by an anti-terrorism court, was expected to be released after the high court verdict as his seven-year sentence was to be counted as time already served. However, the Sindh government under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) detained Umer Sheikh and four others, whose convictions had been overturned, till September 30.

The Sindh prosecution on April 22, 20 filed an appeal under Article 185(3) of Constitution in the Supreme Court, while the Daniel’s parents – Ruth Pearl and Judea Pearl–on May 2 filed the constitutional petition.

It is their stance that the SHC wrongly held that the convictions and sentences awarded by the trial court to the respondents No. 2 to 4 and Ahmed Omer Shaikh could not be sustained on the basis of the standard of proof, meaning that the prosecution has not been able to prove the case against the accused persons beyond reasonable doubt and the benefit of doubt must go to the accused persons.

They have submitted that these facts are admitted, firstly, the deceased person was abducted; secondly, the deceased person was abducted/kidnapped for ransom as ransom emails were received and recovered. However, what is denied by the Respondents No. 2 to 4 and Ahmed Umer Shaikh is their role in sending the ransom emails but not the fact that the ransom emails were actually received; and thirdly, the deceased person was brutally murdered by way of beheading.