KARACHI: The Sindh government on Tuesday approached the Supreme Court (SC), requesting it to hear the appeal against the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) verdict in the Daniel Pearl murder case by the next week.
In the petition, Prosecutor General Dr Faiz Shah requested the apex court to fix the appeal against the acquittal of the accused in the next week.
The Sindh High Court (SHC) on April 2 turned the death sentence awarded to Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh, the prime suspect in the murder case, in a seven-year jail term in addition to acquitting the other three suspects, earlier handed life sentences.
Subsequently, on April 22, the Sindh government challenged the verdict in the top court. Former Senate chairman Farooq H. Naek will lead the case on behalf of the provincial government.
Three separate criminal petitions have been filed seeking death penalty for all accused on the same grounds.
The petitions contend that the “last seen evidence”, “impersonation” and “identification parade” duly proved the crime of the accused and were maintained concurrently by both the lower courts.
Moreover, the videocassette was never challenged which showed the act of murder and the same was verified by a public official.
“In view of these collective proofs together with the clear and categorical confessional statements of respondents and the co-accused, the acquittal and modification of sentence through the impugned judgment is not sustainable and is liable to be set aside.
“Similarly, the evidence of natural and independent witnesses i.e PW-14 and PW-18 confirmed the demand of ransom made by respondents accused and which fact also stood proven through documentary evidence,” said the criminal petition.
The petition further said the offenses created a sense of fear and terror in the minds of the public at large, both nationally and internationally, and as such, all the accused were guilty of the charges leveled against them on all counts.
“The SHC has failed to appreciate the aggravating factors involved in the case. The acquittal of the accused and modification of death sentence in the absence of the mitigating circumstance caused a serious miscarriage of justice and violates the principles settled down by SC,” added the petition.
It said the SHC while giving benefit to the accused relied upon press clippings but the press clippings showing the confession of the accused Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh which he had categorically made before the trial court were neither considered nor appreciated.
The petition stated that SHC had failed to consider the cognitive question of the accused’s robust affiliation with a proscribed organization and having a hardened criminal background.
Pearl, the South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, was abducted on January 23, 2002, in Karachi and beheaded the next month, reportedly by Al-Qaeda. His murder sent shock waves throughout the world and was covered extensively in the Western media.
In July 2002, following the hearings, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Hyderabad had sentenced to death Sheikh and life term to other co-accused.
However, all four convicts had moved the SHC in 2002 challenging their convictions.
While arguing the case, the defense had maintained that the prosecution had “miserably failed” to prove its case against their clients beyond any reasonable doubt and prosecution witnesses were mostly policemen, whose testimonies could not be relied upon.
They had further contended that Naseem and Adil Sheikh’s confessions before a judicial magistrate were defective and not voluntary.
They had argued that the recovery of the laptop from Naseem was shown to have been made on Feb 11, 2002, while computer expert Ronald Joseph had deposed that he was given the computer for verification on Feb 4 and he examined the laptop for six days.
Deputy Prosecutor General Saleem Akhtar had supported the trial court’s verdict and submitted that the prosecution had proved its case against the appellants beyond a shadow of doubt and had requested the court to dismiss the appeals.