Al-Qaeda terrorist, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and his three aides accused of kidnapping and murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, will remain behind bars despite a provincial court ordering their immediate release.
The local government is expected to file a petition on Monday against the decision by the Sindh High Court last week to immediately release Sheikh and the co-accused in the kidnapping and murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter, a provincial minister said.
Last week on Thursday, the Sindh court declared the detention orders to be null and void. But it clarified that the accused should not be released if there is a Supreme Court restraining order regarding their detention.
The Sindh government is taking the stance that the Supreme Court had on September 28 barred it from releasing the convicts as it began hearing arguments which challenged the provincial court’s decision. The Pakistan People’s Party-led Sindh government believes that the apex court’s order in the case is still valid.
The provincial government as well as Pearl’s parents had filed separate appeals against an April 2 order of the Sindh High Court that had modified Sheikh’s death sentence to seven-year rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs 2 million.
That decision came after the court heard the appeals of Sheikh and his accomplices Fahad Naseem, Adil Sheikh and Salman Saqib against the sentence after 18 years. It acquitted Adil Sheikh, Saqib and Nasim and commuted Omar Sheikh’s death sentence to seven years.
He has already spent 18 years in prison on death row and his seven-year sentence for kidnapping was counted as time served.
However, the government issued two preventive detention orders for 90 days each under which the accused continued to remain in custody.
Pearl, then 38, was abducted and murdered in Karachi in January 2002 while he was in Pakistan to work on a story about the links between Pakistan’s powerful spy agency ISI and al-Qaeda in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the US, carried out by the terrorist group in 2001.
On Friday, the US expressed “deep concern” over the order to release Sheikh and his aides and said it will continue to monitor any developments in the case.
“We are deeply concerned by the reports of the December 24 ruling of Sindh High Court to release multiple terrorists responsible for the murder of Daniel Pearl. We have been assured that the accused have not been released at this time,” the state department said in a tweet.
It said that the US will continue to monitor any developments in the case and will continue to support the Pearl family “through this extremely difficult process” while honouring the legacy of Pearl as a “courageous journalist”.