A review petition is filed in the supreme court in Pakistan by authorities against the aquittal of British-born al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three associates in the 2002 abducton and murder case of American journalist Daniel Pearl. The petiton was filed came hours after US expressed outrage over the court decision terming it as an "affront" to victims of terrorism.
The Sindh government filed the review in the Supreme Court after its appeal against the acquittal verdict of Sindh High Court (SHC) was dismissed by the top court on Thursday.
Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed appeals against the acquittal of Sheikh in the kidnapping and murder case of Pearl and ordered his release, a judgement denounced by the American journalist's family as "a complete travesty of justice."
The apex court cleared Sheikh and his three Pakistani accomplices in the case of all the charges, ordering that Sheikh and others be immediately freed from jail if not wanted in any other case.
Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, was visiting Pakistan to report on Islamist militant networks in the country and on the links between the country's powerful spy agency ISI and al-Qaeda following the September 11, 2001 terror strikes. He was kidnapped in Karachi, the capital of Sindh, and beheaded days later.
Sindh Prosecutor General Fiaz Shah, while talking to the media, confirmed that a petition was lodged to “seek a review and request the court to recall the order of acquittal.
The Sindh government, in the petition, pleaded the court to review its verdict and reinstate their sentences as there were certain loopholes in the short order.
The move came after the US voiced outrage at the decision by the Pakistan's top court to acquit those involved in Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder.
The US embassy in Pakistan on Friday shared Secretary of State Antony Blinken's statement that his country seeks justice for Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and murdered in 2002.
“The United States is deeply concerned by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision to acquit those involved in Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder and any proposed action to release them,” according to the statement.
It said that Sheikh was indicted in the United States in 2002 for hostage-taking and conspiracy to commit hostage-taking, resulting in the murder of Pearl.
“The court’s decision is an affront to terrorism victims everywhere, including in Pakistan,” it read.
It said that the US was ready to provide justice to the family of Pearl by prosecuting Sheikh.
“We are also prepared to prosecute Sheikh in the United States for his horrific crimes against an American citizen. We are committed to securing justice for Daniel Pearl’s family and holding terrorists accountable,” it read.
The US also said it recognises past Pakistani actions to hold Sheikh accountable and notes that he currently remains detained under Pakistani law.
“We expect the Pakistani government to expeditiously review its legal options to ensure justice is served. We take note of the Attorney General’s statement that he intends to seek review and recall of the decision,” it said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki underlined the new Biden administration's commitment to secure justice for Pearl’s family.
Psaki, during her daily news conference on Thursday, said: “The United States is outraged by the Pakistani Supreme Court's decision to affirm the acquittals of those responsible for Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's kidnapping and brutal murder which shocked the world's conscience in 2002”.
In April 2020, a two-judge Sindh High Court bench commuted the death sentence of 46-year-old Sheikh to seven years imprisonment. The court also acquitted his three aides who were serving life terms in the case - almost two decades after they were found guilty and jailed.
The Sindh government and family of Pearl filed petitions in the apex court, challenging the high court verdict.
With PTI inputs