The Supreme Court has ordered the release of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the man previously convicted of kidnapping Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl and facilitating his murder.
A three-member bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam, dismissed the Sindh government’s petition seeking to block his release.
One judge has expressed his dissent against the judgment.
On December 24, 2020 the Sindh High Court ordered the release of Sheikh and struck down any further orders to detain him. He was, however, never released from state’s custody.
The Sindh High Court issued a short order that the detention orders of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib were null and void while hearing the Daniel Pearl murder case.
The men were detained after they were deemed free to go in April and were being kept at the Karachi Central Jail. However, their lawyers challenged them being further detained on the Sindh government’s orders. This is what the court struck down as being issued “without lawful authority”.
Daniel Pearl’s murder
Pearl, 38, was the 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, who is also known as the ‘shoe bomber’ for trying to detonate a shoe bomb while on a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001.
Pearl’s wife Mariane Pearl, a US national who was living in Karachi’s Zamzama, wrote a letter to the Artillery Maidan police on February 2, 2002, and said her husband disappeared on January 23, 2002. She said she received an email from the abductors saying that he has been abducted “in retaliation for the imprisonment of Pakistani men by the US government in Cuba and other complaints”.
A graphic video showing Pearl’s decapitation was delivered to the US consulate in Karachi nearly a month after he was kidnapped.
After this, a case was filed against the suspects and 23 witnesses were produced in the case by the prosecution. Sheikh was arrested by Pakistani security agencies in February 2002 and an anti-terrorism court convicted him and others on July 15, 2002.
An investigation, led by Pearl’s friend and former Wall Street Journal colleague Asra Nomani and a Georgetown University professor, claimed the reporter was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, not Sheikh. Mohammed — better known as KSM — was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and is being held at Guantanamo Bay.