The Sindh High Court on Wednesday acquitted three persons accused of being involved in the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl back in 2002. The court also converted death penalty of the prime accused in the case, Omer Saeed Sheikh, into a seven-year imprisonment.
A two-judge bench of high court, headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha, had reserved the judgement last month on the appeals of the four persons against their conviction after hearing the arguments of the appellants and the state counsel.
British national Omer Sheikh was sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing the journalist by a court in 2002, and his three accomplices – Fahad Naseem, Syed Salman Saqib and Sheikh Mohammad Adil – were sentenced to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs500,000 each.
Pearl, a US national and the South Asian bureau chief of American publication The Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped on January 23, 2002, in Karachi and later beheaded by his captors when their demands regarding his release were not met.
The counsel for the defense, Rai Bashir and Khawaja Naveed Ahmed, had submitted to court that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond any reasonable doubt against the convicted. "Ahmed and the three other suspects had neither aided, abetted, or participated in the alleged crime of kidnapping for ransom," it was argued.
They submitted that the prosecution witnesses in the case against Shiekh and others were mostly policemen, and their testimonies could not be relied upon. They said there was no eyewitness to the crime and the prosecution relied upon very weak circumstantial evidence for conviction.
The deputy prosecutor-general, Saleem Akhtar, supported the anti-terrorism court judgment and submitted that the prosecution had proved its case against the appellants beyond any shadow of a doubt and requested the court to dismiss the appeals.
After hearing the arguments of all the parties to the case, the SHC bench acquitted three and reduced the sentence of the prime accused in the Daniel Pearl murder case.