The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan, today, heard the appeal case against the acquittal of the accused in Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder case. Earlier in the day, the Sindh High Court (SHC) summoned a hearing of officials issued contempt of court notices for not following the SHC’s orders for the accused’s release from police custody.

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 life imprisonment or death. However, the Sindh High Court acquitted all four in April 2020. This acquittal is being 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, leading to “deep concern” expressed by the United States.

The Supreme Court appeal hearing today was heard by a 3-member bench headed by Justice Musheer Alam. Faisal Siddiqui, consul of the Pearl family, presented his arguments before the court, as well as the confessions of those accused.

Mehmood A Sheikh, lawyer of Omar Sheikh and others accused, said that he has now submitted a petition before the SC seeking the release of the accused. The Prosecutor General Sindh confirmed that a copy of the petition has been received. This had been an issue of contention in yesterday’s SC hearing.

Are you saying in the High court that the case is ongoing in the Supreme Court? – Justice Sardar Tariq asked the Prosecuter whether he is saying in the Sindh High Court that the case in ongoing in the Supreme Court. Prosecuter General Sindh clarified that all of the accused are under fourth schedule, therefore are under arrest.

Mehmood A Sheikh argued that the Singh High Court has declared the order of arrest of the accused illegal.

The Supreme Court then sought a copy of the order of the Sindh High Court, and adjourned the case until Tuesday, January 13, 2021.

Contempt of court case heard at Sindh High Court

A contempt of court case was heard at the Sindh High Court (SHC) today, pertaining to the failure of relevant authorities to comply with the court’s ruling to release the accused in Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder case. The SHC had, on December 24, 2020, issued an order to release the four accused from police custody due to lack of legal grounds of their inprisonment.

Sindh High Court sought all the judgements and orders of the Supreme Court in the ongoing Daniel Pearl kidnappers acquittal case

The court demanded the presence of all top officials to have received the contempt notice at the hearing. It expressed displeasure over the absence of Chief Secretary Sindh Mumtaz Ali Shah from court proceedings.

“This is a contempt of court notice, therefore he would have to be present in person,” said Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro, when a junior presented himself as the Chief Sectretary’s representative.

Until the contempt notice is being heard, all top officers would have to come to the court, the court said. It was emphasised that junior officers can not represent senior officers at the hearing, and all notified must appear before court in their personal capacity.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Jail Hassan Sehto and other senior police officials presented themselves before the high court today.

Advocate General Sindh noted that the case regarding the acquittal of the accused in the Daniel Pearl is being heard at the Supreme Court today. The SHC responded that the murder case and the case for keeping the accused in custody are separate, and must not be mixed up.

The Advocate General went on argue that the contempt of court notice against Sindh Home Ministry and others are uncalled for. This petition should be declared as unnecessary and should be rejected, he said.

The Supreme Courts September 28 ruling is on record,” Advocate General Sindh argued. “The Supreme Court had ordered to not release the accused on September 28.”

To this, the accused Omar Saeed Sheikh’s lawyer claimed that the SC’s September 28 ruling is “not applicable anymore.”

Prompted by the SHC, Advocate General Sindh admitted that the SC did not rule anything with regard to the release after September 28.

“There is a possibility that the Supreme Court could have thought that they will be ruling on the appeal itself, therefore no need to rule on the release again,” observed the Sindh High Court. “Prima Facie, Supreme Court has not ordered to keep the accused under arrest, further.”

Advocate Sindh concluded that it was best to wait until the Supreme Court issues a new ruling.

The Sindh High Court adjourned the contempt notice until Monday, January 13, 2021, and ordered all notified senior officials to be present in person at the next hearing.

Additional commentary by Zainab Mubashir


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