The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the Sindh government's appeals against the Sindh High Court's (SHC) decision to overturn the conviction of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh for the 2002 beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
The short order was issued by a three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam, which also directed to release the accused. One member of the bench opposed the decision.
“The court has come out to say that there is no offense that he has committed in this case,” Mahmood Sheikh, who represented Sheikh, told AFP.
Read: Omar Saeed Sheikh — from rowdy student to terror convict
On Wednesday, Sheikh — after 18 years of denial — told the SC he played a "minor” role in the killing.
A letter handwritten by Sheikh in 2019, in which he admits limited involvement in the killing of the Wall Street Journal reporter, was submitted to the Supreme Court nearly two weeks ago. It wasn't until Wednesday that Sheikh's lawyers confirmed their client wrote it.
Nowhere in the three-page letter addressed to the SHC did the British-born Sheikh elaborate or say exactly what his allegedly minor role in Pearl's slaying involved.
Daniel Pearl, 38, was doing research on religious extremism in Karachi when he was abducted in January 2002. A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate a month later. Subsequently, Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by a trial court.
In its April 2, 2020, order, the SHC had overturned the conviction of Omar Sheikh for killing the South Asia bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal. The SHC had also acquitted three other men namely Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib, who had been earlier sentenced to life imprisonment by an Anti-Terrorism Court in Karachi.
Subsequently, the Sindh government as well as the parents of Pearl had filed separate appeals against the SHC's order in the Supreme Court.
During today's hearing, the Sindh advocate general told the court that the prime suspect has links to banned outfits. He said that the provincial government has handed over sensitive information to the court in a sealed envelope. "There is evidence but not enough to prove it in court," he said.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked that the evidence handed over the court has not been presented before "at any forum". "How can we review information that is not a part of any record," he asked.
Justice Muneeb Akhtar said that government has not declared the suspect as an "enemy agent". "No one knows when the war against terrorism will end. The state declaring its citizens as an enemy is dangerous in itself," he said.
To this the Sindh advocate general replied that a person waging war against the country is called an enemy of the state.