KARACHI: The Sindh High Court is set to announce its verdict on Thursday (today) on the appeals filed by four convicts in the abduction and murder case of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

A two-judge SHC bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha had reserved the judgement last month on the convicts’ appeals, pending for the past 18 years, and an appeal of the state seeking enhancement of the sentence after hearing arguments and examining the record and proceedings of the case.

An antiterrorism court had sentenced to death prime accused Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh, commonly known as Shaikh Omar, and life term to co-accused Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil for the abduction of the slain journalist.

Shaikh Omar and other convicts had moved the SHC in 2002 challenging their convictions handed down by the Hyderabad ATC after finding them guilty of abducting and killing Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal who was researching a story on religious extremists, in January 2002 in Karachi.

Hashim, Asim alias Qasim, Hassan, Ahmed Bhai, Imtiaz Siddiqui and Amjad Farooqui had been declared proclaimed offenders by the trial court.

The lawyers for the appellants, Rai Bashir and Khawaja Naveed Ahmed, submitted that the prosecution had miserably failed to prove its case against their clients beyond any reasonable doubt and prosecution witnesses were mostly policemen and their testimonies could not be relied upon.

They further contended that the recovery of a laptop computer with e-mails and messages foisted on appellants Naseem and Adil Sheikh, and their confessions before a judicial magistrate were defective and not voluntary.

They argued the recovery of the laptop computer was shown from appellant Naseem on Feb 11, 2002 while computer expert Ronald Joseph had deposed that he was given the computer for verification on Feb 4 and he examined the laptop for six days and such evidence could not be relied upon and requested the court to set aside the conviction.

Deputy Prosecutor Gene­ral Saleem Akhtar supported the trial court’s verdict and submitted that the prosecution had proved its case aga­inst the appellants bey­ond a shadow of doubt and reque­sted the court to dismiss the appeals.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2020

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