Published: Wed, February 03, 2021

Daniel murder case: Shift Omar Sheikh to govt rest house: SC

Daniel murder case: Shift Omar Sheikh to govt rest house: SC

- Pakistan's Supreme Court has ordered the release of the previously convicted killer of Daniel Pearl, a USA journalist who was kidnapped and beheaded by al Qaeda and Pakistani Islamist militants in 2002.

In a decision that is expected to draw criticism from the United States, the court recommended that Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh be transferred to a government safe house as a stepping stone to his full release after spending 18 years on death row. "It is a step toward freedom", Sheikh's father, Ahmad Saeed Sheikh, told Reuters.

Pearl's family had also petitioned for the Supreme Court to reverse the acquittal so that "Sheikh and co-conspirators are brought to justice for the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl", Faisal Siddiqi, a lawyer for the family, said.

This comes despite US Secretary of State Tony Blinken speaking over phone with Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, days after the Supreme Court ordered the release of Sheikh, and discussing the accountability of convicted terrorists responsible for Pearl's murder, according to the US State Department.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a review petition seeking suspension of the Sindh High Court's acquittal verdict in Daniel Pearl murder case, ARY News reported.

Both India and the United States had expressed outrage over Sheikh's acquittal. The American was eventually freed. The Supreme Court had on January 28 upheld a High Court's order to release Sheikh.

Pearl's murder took place three years after Sheikh, along with Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, was released by India in 1999 and given safe passage to Afghanistan in exchange for the almost 150 passengers of hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814. Pearl disappeared from Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh, while researching for a story about Islamist militants in the city.

However, he said they (the judges) were bound by the Constitution.

In a series of tweets over the weekend, Pearl's family urged followers to "call your lawmakers in Pakistan, in the US, the world to support Danny's parents", to keep Sheikh behind bars.

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.

Locations of such safe houses are usually kept secret.

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.

He was later sentenced to death by hanging after telling a Karachi court that Pearl had already been killed days before the gruesome video of the journalist's beheading had been released.

The Pakistan government is scrambling to keep Sheikh in custody after the top court had ordered to release him if he was not wanted in any other case. "Keeping one detained means "no trial", he said.

The accused should be provided residence for stay in Karachi with family, the court ruled.

Though the US has said it's ready to prosecute Sheikh, there are hurdles to his extradition. Three others linked to the case, Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib, and Sheikh Adil, were acquitted. The U.S. also does not have an extradition treaty with Pakistan, although Islamabad has in the past bypassed legalities to send suspects to the U.S., including Mohammad, the alleged 9-11 mastermind.

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