Pakistan’s top court accepts appeal by Daniel Pearl’s family

FILE: Pakistani police surround handcuffed Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh as he comes out of a court Karachi in this file taken on March 29, 2002. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 28 September 2020

Pakistan’s top court accepts appeal by Daniel Pearl’s family

  • Omar Saeed Sheikh has remained in custody since his acquittal under a Pakistani law
  • Pearl disappeared on Jan. 23, 2002, and a videotape received by US diplomats in February 2002 confirmed his death

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday accepted an appeal by the family of slain American journalist Daniel Pearl seeking to keep a British-born Pakistani man on death row over the beheading of the Wall Street Journal reporter.
The court delayed until next week hearing the appeal over the lower-court acquittal of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who had been on death row since his conviction in 2002 over Pearl’s killing.
Sheikh had been convicted of helping lure Pearl to a meeting in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi in which he was kidnapped. Pearl had been investigating the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, dubbed the “Shoe Bomber” after trying to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes.
The lower court’s April ruling acquitted Sheikh and three other accomplices, who had been sentenced to life in jail for their role in the plot. The lower court found Sheikh guilty on a single lesser charge of abduction, which he is also appealing.
The acquittal stunned the US government, Pearl’s family and journalism advocacy groups.
“We felt like (it was) a thunderstorm that is about to reopen our pains of 2002,” Pearl’s father Judea Pearl told The Associated Press in an email Monday. “Pakistan’s judicial system caved to either inside or outside pressure to send a message of impunity to extremist elements worldwide.”
The Pearl family’s lawyer, Faisal Siddiqi, said after Monday’s court hearing that there was “ample evidence” to overturn Sheikh’s appeal and return him to death row.
“There is eyewitness evidence, there is forensic evidence, there are confessional statements,” Siddiqi said.
Among the confessional statements is a handwritten, July 19, 2019 letter by Sheikh that acknowledged his involvement in Pearl’s killing, Siddiqi said. In the letter, Sheikh said his involvement in Pearl’s death was “a relatively minor one.” However, Siddiqi said Sheikh implicates himself in Pearl’s killing with that admission.
Sheikh’s lawyer, Mahmood Shaikh, told the AP he suffered a heart attack while arguing the case in the lower court, but remained confident the acquittal would stand.
“I have no doubt in my mind,” Shaikh said. He said his doctors ordered him to remain on bed rest for the next two weeks, throwing into question whether the Supreme Court hearing will happen next week.
The Sindh provincial government also is appealing Shiekh’s acquittal.
Pearl, 38, of Encino, California, was abducted Jan. 23, 2002. In Sheikh’s original trial, emails between Sheikh and Pearl presented in court showed Sheikh gained Pearl’s confidence sharing their experiences as both waited for the birth of their first child. Pearl’s wife Marianne Pearl gave birth to a son, Adam, in May 2002.
Evidence entered into court accused Sheikh of luring Pearl to his death, giving the American journalist a false sense of security as he promised to introduce him to a cleric with militant links.
Pakistani police sought to locate Pearl for weeks until a video received by US diplomats showed his beheading.
The 2019 letter by Sheikh was not among the evidence heard by the lower court that in April acquitted Sheikh on a number of charges, including the most serious of the kidnapping for ransom that lead to Pearl’s slaying.
“The 2019 letter is only one (piece of) evidence to something that we knew all along, without any doubt, that Sheikh lured Danny into the abduction trap which led to his murder,” Pearl’s father Judea said. “We had copies of a long email exchange he had with Danny, using a pseudonym ‘Bashir,’ was which was downloaded from Danny’s computer.”
An investigation by students of Georgetown University in Washington implicated Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, in Pearl’s death. Mohammed has been in US custody on Guantanamo Bay since his arrest in Pakistan in March 2003.
Pearl’s father said he has received assurances from the US State Department that it was closely following Sheikh’s acquittal and subsequent appeals. The trial’s outcome could impact relations between the two countries and again paint Pakistan as a haven for militants and extremists, he said.
The US Embassy in Islamabad did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Captured Indian pilot’s return signified Pakistan’s 'mature response,' says military spokesman

Updated 29 October 2020

Captured Indian pilot’s return signified Pakistan’s 'mature response,' says military spokesman

  • Major General Babar Iftikhar responds to an opposition politician who claimed the government released the prisoner due to fear of war
  • The spokesman says Pakistan gave India a ‘bloody nose’ that still hurts

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan released an Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, after shooting down his fighter jet during an aerial dogfight over Kashmir in February 2019 to give peace a chance in the region, said the chief of the military’s media wing on Thursday, adding it was “misleading and disappointing” to attribute the country’s decision to anything but its “mature response” as a responsible state.
The statement of Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar came a day after former National Assembly speaker and senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said that the government had released the Indian pilot due to fear of an imminent attack from India.
“A statement was given yesterday that tried to distort facts related to a national security issue,” Iftikhar said without naming anyone. “I am here to set the record straight.”
Addressing a news conference with “one-point agenda,” he said that Pakistan’s armed forces displayed their ability to respond to “Indian aggression” last year before releasing the captured pilot in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
“We gave them a bloody nose and it is still hurting,” he said while referring to Pakistan’s response to India’s violation of its airspace in February last year.
The former National Assembly speaker claimed on Wednesday that the government had asked parliamentary leaders to let Abhinandan go, predicting an attack from the country’s nuclear-armed neighbor.
However, Sadiq issued a clarification on Thursday, saying that Indian media was “misreporting” his statement.
Alluding to his words in the National Assembly, the DG ISPR said that the negative narrative was “directly affecting the national security” of Pakistan, adding that India was taking full advantage of it.
“This narrative is being used to minimize India’s defeat and loss,” he said. “It also amounts to creating undue controversy around Pakistan’s clear supremacy and victory over India, and I think this is not acceptable to any Pakistani.”
Asked about recent statements of opposition leaders against the military leadership, he said the armed forces were an organized institution and its rank and file could not be separated.
“No one can create differences between the rank and file of the armed forces,” he said. “There is complete unity and it will continue to remain that way.”
An 11-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), has accused the security establishment of meddling in politics and helping Prime Minister Imran Khan’s rise to power in the 2018 general elections.
“This political polarization will continue. It will increase. There may emerge a situation where there is a severe constitutional crisis,” Adnan Rehmat, a political analyst, told Arab News. “The opposition would never have targeted state institutions if the government had not subjected its leaders to undue and unfair pressure.”

PML-N leaders, however, denied that they wanted a clash with any institution to make political gains.
“Our protests and struggle against the government is purely democratic and constitutional. We don’t intend to clash with our state institutions,” Malik Abrar Ahmed, a senior PML-N leader, told Arab News.
The country’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, also held a meeting with the prime minister on Thursday to discuss “professional matters pertaining to Pakistan Army, internal and external security situation,” according to the PM Office.