Pakistan SC confirms decision to release Daniel Pearl murder accused

Pakistan SC confirms decision to release Daniel Pearl murder accused”

Pakistan's government has been scrambling to keep Sheikh in prison since the supreme court last week upheld his acquittal in the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Tuesday's decision comes after a three-judge panel reviewed and confirmed its order last week to acquit Sheikh, who had been on death row for 18 years since originally being convicted by an anti-terrorism court for his role in the kidnapping and murder of the USA journalist.

"He should be moved to a comfortable a good rest house where he can live a normal life", Justice Umar Ata Bandial said in a ruling, adding that Sheikh should be confined to quarters, but his family allowed to visit.

The top court's earlier order to release Sheikh, who had been convicted of masterminding the brutal murder of Pearl, sparked global outrage while the United States called it "an affront to terrorism victims everywhere" and demanded the Pakistani government "review its legal options".

In a final effort to overturn the acquittal, Pakistan's government as well as the Pearl family filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, asking it to review the decision to exonerate Sheikh of Pearl's murder.

Bandyal headed a panel of three judges that reviewed the case, following a petition from the government after the court upheld last Thursday a lower court's decision to acquit Sheikh and three accomplices of all charges except abduction.

While the secure government accommodation is being arranged, Sheikh should be moved from his death row cell to an ordinary jail block, the judge said. The American was eventually freed.

The terms of Sheikh's release will become clearer once a written order is made public. Sheikh was one of three terrorists released by India in 1999 in exchange for a hijacked airliner. Pearl disappeared from Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh, while researching for a story about Islamist militants in the city.

"They have never argued or charged them with belonging to a terrorist organization", said the lawyer.

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In the government-run safe house, Sheikh will be under a 24-hour guard - often by military personnel - and will not be allowed to leave the house. Pakistan's security establishment has several such facilities across the country.

Pearl's wife, Marianne Pearl, a U.S. national who was living in Karachi, wrote a letter to police on February 2, 2002, stating that her husband had disappeared on January 23, 2002.

The Tuesday decision is expected to draw fire from the United States.

Attorney General Khalid Javed also sought time to file an appeal against the impugned judgment of the Sindh High Court, issued on Dec 24, 2020, and to make submissions with respect to the interpretation of relevant provisions of Article 10 of the Constitution.

Siddiqi, the Pearl family lawyer, said the original murder trial back in 2002 charged all four as one, which complicated the case and allowed the court to free all if there was doubt about the guilt of even one of the suspects.

He said till that time, the detainees would be kept outside the solitary confinement in a comfortable place within the jail.

The US has also stated that it is ready to bring Sheikh to the US and put him to trial in the US courts, hinting at its distrust over the legal proceedings of the case in Pakistan.

Though the US has said it's ready to prosecute Sheikh, there are hurdles to his extradition.

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