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Sindh Files Appeal Against Acquittal of Omar Saeed Sheikh

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of Omar Sheikh. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

The Sindh High Court overturned the death sentence of the accused earlier this month

The Sindh government on Wednesday filed an appeal before the Supreme Court of Pakistan against a Sindh High Court ruling that overturned the conviction of Omar Saeed Sheikh for the kidnapping and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl.

On April 2, the Sindh High Court overturned the conviction of Sheikh for the 2002 killing of Wall Street Journal South Asia Bureau chief Pearl. It also acquitted three other accused—Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil, Salman Saqib—who had been sentenced to life imprisonment by an Anti-Terrorism Court in Karachi. The ruling drew swift global condemnation, with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announcing that the government would appeal the verdict.

Pearl, 38, was researching religious extremism in Karachi when he was abducted in January 2002. A graphic video of his decapitation was delivered to the U.S. consulate a month later. Sheikh was arrested a few months later, and eventually sentenced to death by the trial court.

In the appeal, Sindh Prosecutor General Fiaz Shah has maintained that the “last seen evidence” and “identification parade” had proved the guilt of the accused and concurrently maintained by the trial court. Additionally, he said, the video depicting the gruesome murder had been verified by a public official and had not been challenged in court.

The Sindh prosecutor general also maintained that the collective proof, alongside the confessional statements of the accused and co-accused, made the High Court’s sentencing unsustainable and liable to be set aside.

The appeal also contends that the accused failed to produce any material to cast doubt on the evidence produced by the prosecution, adding that the co-accused had categorically confessed to his involvement during remand, while the other accused had voluntarily confessed their involvement before the trial court.

The Sindh High Court’s overturned verdict found Sheikh guilty of the lesser charge of kidnapping and sentenced him to seven years in prison. He has already served 18 years in prison on death row and the reduced sentence would now count as time served, one of Sheikh’s lawyers, Khwaja Naveed, had claimed.

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