Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, prime accused in the Daniel Pearl kidnapping and murder case, has been shifted out of death cell and into normal barracks, following the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan’s orders directing the move.
The shifting took place late Wednesday night, as confirmed by Superintendent Central Jail Karachi Hassan Sehto.
In a February 2 Supreme Court hearing, a three-member panel—comprising Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and Justice Muneeb Akhtaro—ordered to remove all accused in American journalist Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder case from death cells. The court also rejected the Sindh government’s plea seeking interim orders against Omar Sheikh’s release, as ordered by Sindh High Court.
According to the order, Sheikh and other accused were to be shifted to normal barracks, where Sheikh would be kept in an “at ease environement” per the court’s orders. Omar Sheikh should be moved to a government rest house after two days, the court ordered.
The order said:
“[…] whilst the detenue is entitled to be freed form custody under the impugned judgement, we order him to be placed in a residential environment like a government rest house providing facilities for a normal life albeit without access to the outside world through telephone, internet etc. Proper security arrangements shall be ensured for keeping the detenue safe in the rest house. It is also directed that only his family shall be allowed to meet the detenue everyday from 8:00 am till 5:00 pm. The provincial government shall provide the immediate family of the detenue reasonable transportation and accomodation in Karachi.”
Daniel Pearl, an American journalist heading the Wall Street Journal’s Pakistan bureau in 2002, was beheaded and mutilated after being allegedly kidnapped by the accused. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (known as Omar Sheikh), Fahad Nasim Ahmed, Syed Salman Saqib, and Sheikh Muhammad Adil were sentenced to death or life imprisonment on charges of kidnapping Pearl and conspiring in his murder. However, the Sindh High Court acquitted all four in April 2020. This acquittal was appealed by Pearl’s parents and the Sindh government in the Supreme Court.
In December 2020, the SHC ordered the immediate release of the accused—citing lack of legal grounds to keep them detained—leading to “deep concern” expressed by the United States. Meanwhile, a contempt of court case was heard in the Sindh High Court against the authorities withholding the release.
The Supreme Court’s order on Thursday upheld the order of the Sindh High Court, dismissing the appeals and calling for the immediate release of accused.
The federal government and the Sindh government filed review petitions against the SC’s judgement.
The Attorney General and Advocate General Sindh presented their arguments in the Supreme Court on behalf of the federal and the Sindh government on February 2. The Supreme Court rejected the Sindh government’s plea seeking interim orders against Omar Sheikh’s release as ordered by the Sindh High Court. The case has been adjourned indefinitely.