KARACHI: Ten years after the grisly murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi, the men convicted for kidnapping and killing him remain in jail with no updates on their appeal hearing.
Lawyer Rai Bashir Ahmed, who represents Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, said he had not received any new dates for a hearing in a while. “The last hearing date was when [the late lawyer] Khwaja Sultan was still alive, around three months ago or even earlier. Sultan sahib sent an adjournment because he told me he wasn’t feeling well, and the hearing before that I sent an adjournment because I was busy in the Supreme Court.”
Khwaja Sultan, who was one of the defence lawyers, passed away after a brief illness earlier this year.
Ahmed says one potential reason for the delay could be that documents need to be submitted by the lawyer replacing Sultan. They need to state that he is now part of the defence counsel.
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was sentenced to death and Salman Saqib, Fahad Naseem and Shaikh Adil were given 25-year sentences in 2002. The appellate hearing, according to Ahmed, would not hear any new evidence but would only review what was presented in the past. When asked about reports of evidence that could impact the case, he said they were not admissible, “since [they were] just the opinion of journalists”.
In a 2011 investigative report on Pearl’s kidnapping and murder, by American journalists and students, the authors stated that, “In their haste to close the case, Pakistani authorities knowingly used perjured testimony to pin the actual act of murder on Omar Sheikh and his three co-conspirators. While the four were involved in the kidnapping plan and certainly were culpable, they were not present when Pearl was murdered. Others, who were present and actually assisted in the brutal beheading, were not charged.” According to the report, US officials have used vein-matching techniques to match the hand in the photo of Pearl’s execution with Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the alleged plotter of the 9/11 attacks who is currently being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Ahmed said he was in touch with the parents of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Salman Saqib and they have been to jail to visit their sons.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2012.