Pak lawyer says Pearl's killer is international terrorist, cites Indian court's verdict

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Islamabad, Dec 16 (PTI) A lawyer representing the parents of slain US journalist Daniel Pearl informed Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday that the mastermind behind the murder is an international terrorist and cited a judgment by India's apex court to support his arguments.

Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, was abducted and beheaded while he was in Pakistan investigating a story in 2002 on the links between the country's powerful spy agency ISI and al-Qaeda.

British-born al-Qaeda leader Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three aides were convicted and sentenced in the abduction and murder case of Pearl.

'The crimes which are the subject matter of these present petitions have to be understood within the context of the fact that the mastermind of these crimes, Ahmed Omar Sheikh, was an international terrorist, especially involved in other kidnappings for ransom incidents,” The Express Tribune newspaper reported, citing the written submission filed by counsel Faisal Siddiqui.

'These facts find support both from a judgment of the Indian Supreme Court, as well as the defence's own evidence. Therefore, this context of international terrorism is crucial in adjudicating these present petitions,' said Siddiqui.

The paper, however, did not elaborate on the judgment of the Indian Supreme Court which was cited by Siddiqui in his written submission.

In April, a two-judge Sindh High Court bench commuted the death sentence of 46-year-old Sheikh to seven years imprisonment. The court also acquitted his three aides who were serving life terms in the case – almost two decades after they were found guilty and jailed.

A three-judge apex court bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam is hearing the appeal by the Sindh government and the family of the slain journalist against the acquittal of Sheikh.

Siddiqui maintained that the case could be divided into three broad categories and in three time periods; pre-abduction for ransom period, abduction for ransom period and murder period, the paper said.

'Each offence has to be proved independently and the evidence in relation to each of the offence differs both in strength and in volume and as a consequence, the occurrence and proof of each of these offences is to be decided separately,' the counsel noted.

He further added that the guilt of each set of accused has to be proved independently and the evidence against each set of accused differ both in strength and in volume and, as a consequence, there guilt and sentence is to be decided separately, the paper said.

The counsel went on to say that the evidence relied upon in these petitions is not simple circumstantial evidence, but is based on direct evidence - particularly judicial confessions.

'The evidence relied upon is oral, documentary, forensic and judicial confessions.' Siddiqui urged the apex court to set aside the Sindh High Court’s verdict because it is based on a gross misreading of the evidence, disregarding of critical evidence and facts, and a misinterpretation of the law, resulting in findings which are artificial and shocking.

Two days after the Sindh High Court overturned Sheikh's conviction in April, the Sindh government invoked the Maintenance of Public Order to keep the four convicts in jail.

Though exonerated by the court, the Sindh government has refused to set Sheikh free citing that he could pose a threat to public order. PTI ZH AKJ ZH ZH ZH