It is a travesty of justice: India on Pak court order to release Omar Saeed Sheikh

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New Delhi, Jan 28 (PTI) India on Thursday described as a 'travesty of justice' the Pakistan Supreme Court's order to release Omar Saeed Sheikh, the prime suspect in the sensational kidnapping and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.

The Pakistan Supreme Court ordered the release of Sheikh while dismissing an appeal against his acquittal by the Sindh High Court last April in the murder of Pearl, who was a journalist of the Wall Street Journal.

'It is a travesty of justice not to find Omar Saeed guilty of any charges in this heinous act of terror,' External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at a media briefing.

Sheikh is one of three terrorists released by India in 1999 in exchange for nearly 150 passengers of a hijacked airliner.

Srivastava said the case truly demonstrated Pakistan's intent on tackling terrorism.

'I had mentioned earlier about the very low conviction rate in Pakistan when it comes to sentencing of terror accused. This case truly demonstrates Pakistan's intent on taking action on terror front,' Srivastava said.

'Our position on Pakistan taking sustained, verifiable, credible and irreversible action against terrorism and terrorist funding emanating from all territory under its control remain unchanged,' he said.

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.

Sheikh and his three aides - Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib - were convicted and sentenced in the abduction and murder of Pearl in Karachi in 2002.

A three-judge bench of the apex court led by Justice Mushir Alam dismissed the Sindh government's appeal against the Sindh High Court's decision to overturn the conviction of Sheikh in the Pearl murder case. The beheading of the American journalist in 2002 had grabbed international headlines.

Replying to a question on the case relating to Indian death row convict Kulbhushan Jadhav, Srivastava said Pakistan has failed to create an environment under which the allegations against him can be 'seriously and effectively challenged'.

'They need to implement the ICJ judgement in its letter and spirit and this include provision of all relevant documents to the case as well as providing unconditional, unhindered and unimpeded consular access to Jadhav,' he said.

Fifty-year-old retired Indian Navy officer Jadhav was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017.

Weeks later, India approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Pakistan for denial of consular access to him and challenging the death sentence.

The Hague-based ICJ ruled in July 2019 that Pakistan must undertake an 'effective review and reconsideration' of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav and also to grant consular access to India without further delay.

India has been pressing for appointment of an Indian lawyer to represent Jadhav in the case besides seeking unhindered consular access to him as ordered by the ICJ. PTI MPB ZMN