HYDERABAD, July 1: The Anti-terrorism Court judge, Syed Ali Ashraf Shah, here on Monday dismissed two separate applications filed by the defence in the Daniel Pearl kidnapping and murder case.
The defence for the principal accused, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, had requested the court to call the general manager of Pakistan Television, Islamabad, to verify the Feb 12 and Feb 13 coverage of Omar Sheikh’s surrender in Lahore as contained in a video cassette produced by Ahmed Saeed Sheikh, father of the principal accused.
The chief prosecutor in the case, Raja Qureshi, contested the validity of the cassette saying that a certificate of authentication by the PTV or the ministry of information was missing.
The judge ruled: “It appears that the video cassette is in its original form and, therefore, question of calling PTV officer for any certification or verification does not arise.”
The other defence application had sought recalling of the prosecution witness, Hameedullah Memon, the investigation officer in the case.
The court ruled that if the IO was recalled, it would cause inordinate delay in speedy disposal of the case.
The defence counsels, Abdul Waheed Katpar and Mohsin Imam, through the applications intended to point out the contradiction in the IO’s statement and the PTV news. The IO had claimed that he had arrested Omar Sheikh on Feb 13.
The defence witness, Saeed Sheikh, told the court that he used to record the PTV news soon after his son’s surrender to ascertain whether the arrest had been brought to the official record or not.
The court adjourned the matter till July 4 as the defence wanted to move Sindh High Court.
The defence counsel, Rai Basheer Ahmed, recalled that when the court had ordered release of video cassette, containing film of the gruesome murder of the US journalist, Daniel Pearl, the court had suspended the operation of impugned order for 72 hours the same day on the request of the chief prosecutor. He contended that the court should also afford an opportunity to the defence to move the SHC. He undertook before the court that if no stay was granted then he would begin his arguments on July 4.
Raja Qureshi, after the Monday’s proceedings, told newsmen that during his extensive cross-examination, Ahmed Saeed Sheikh replied in negative or expressed his ignorance to most of the set of 54 questions.
The prosecutor said that the question pertained to the past activities of Omar Sheikh as well as his involvement in the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl.
According to the prosecutor, the defence witness denied that his son was affiliated with any of the defunct organization in Pakistan and that he had kidnapped four foreigners.
He, however, admitted that his daughter-in-law, Ms Sadia, had invoked constitutional jurisdiction of Sindh High court, seeking an order of restrain that Omar Sheikh should not be extradited to the US.
Mr Qureshi also asked the witness about the Military Order, entitled as detention, treatment and trial of certain non-citizens in war against terrorism, which was passed and executed by the US president on Nov 13, 2001.
To a query that Omar Sheikh had abandoned study in BSc from the London School of Economics, the witness claimed that his son had to travel.
He denied that Omar Sheikh was also known as Chaudhry Basheer Ahmed or Shabbir alias Muzaffar Farooq Sheikh, had participated in protest demonstrations and conferences to raise voice against Serbian aggression in Bosnia, visited Bosnia with one, Asad Khan, from the platform of ‘Convoy of Mercy’.
The witness also denied that his son had received training in Khusht Omar at Salman Farsi Camp in 1993 and visited India to get Maulana Masood Azhar and others released.
He, however, clarified that Omar Sheikh was release from Tihar Jail in India, not as per the demands of the hijackers of an Indian plane which was taken to Afghanistan. The witness said that his son’s name was not included in the list of people whose release was demanded by the hijackers. He said that Omar was acquitted in the case.
Ahmed Saeed Sheikh also outright denied that his son had met Osama bin Laden who, according to the prosecution counsel, had hosted an iftar party in honour of Omar Sheikh and others after their release.
The chief prosecutor told newsmen that while Saeed Sheikh has denied that his son’s release from Tihar Jail followed acceptance of the hijackers’ demands, Raoof Sheikh, another defence witness and the maternal uncle of Omar, had conceded the ‘fact’ during his deposition before the court.
The AG questioned about Omar Sheikh’s involvement in alleged terrorist and Jihadi activities. To a question that Omar Sheikh had suffered bullet injuries in India in Oct 1994, he replied in affirmative and said that it was due to some misunderstanding and that his son was acquitted in the same case.
The defence counsel, Rai Basheer, said that during his examination-in-chief, Saeed Sheikh deposed that since his family was subjected to constant harassment, he and Raoof Sheikh traced out Omar and decided to call him at the mosque in the Mini Market of Gulberg at Zohar prayers. Omar’s father said that his son denied his involvement in the Pearl case following which he surrendered to the DIG of Lahore at the latter’s residence in GOR Colony to prove his innocence.
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