In a 2-1-majority judgment in the 2002 murder case of American journalist Daniel Pearl, the Pakistan Supreme Court held that the entire evidence is shrouded with doubts, with prosecution failing to prove the four accused guilty.
Giving out the judgment, the court acquitted the prime suspect in the murder case, British-born Pakistani Ahmed Omar Sheikh of all the charges.
“Hence Criminal Appeal No 602/2020 filed by Ahmed Omer Sheikh is allowed. He is acquitted of all the charges. He shall be released from jail if not required to be detained in any other case,” maintained the majority judgment.
“Criminal Appeals No.599 to 601 of 2020, filed by the state against acquittal and Criminal Petitions No1085 and 1086 of 2020 filed by the parents of Daniel Peal against the acquittal of Fahad Nasim Ahmed, Syed Salman Saqib and Sheikh Muhammad Adil and for enhancement of sentence of Ahmed Omar Sheikh are dismissed.”
The case has become a tipping point of contention in relations between the US and Pakistan as Washington has raised serious questions over the proceedings of the case.
On January 28, the Supreme Court issued a short order after hearing appeals filed by the Pakistan People Party (PPP) leg of the Sindh provincial government and Pearl’s parents, challenging the decision of the Sindh High Court, which acquitted the four suspects of all charges.
The Sindh High Court had commuted the death sentence of Sheikh to seven years and acquitted three others, who were serving life term in the case.
The decision came after at least 20 years after the accused were found guilty and jailed.
The Sindh High Court had maintained that the prosecution had failed to bring home guilt of the accused and appellant, as the evidence furnished during the trial they maintained, was full of factual and legal defects.
“In this case, regarding each and every piece of evidence the doubts are emerging from the mouth of the witnesses, and it is settled since centuries that the benefit of doubt automatically goes in favor of the accused,” read the verdict of the provincial court.
The Supreme court seconded the decision of the Sindh High Court and maintained that the latter has “rightly extended the benefit of doubt to Fahad Nasim Ahmed, Syed Salman Saqib and Sheikh Muhammad Adil and acquitted them from all the charges and had also rightly extended the benefit of doubt to Ahmed Omar Sheikh qua all the other charges”.
The court also maintained that Pearl’s parents had argued that it was a high-profile case, adding that even in such cases, the benefit of the doubt cannot be extended to the prosecution.