KARACHI, Aug 13: The appeal of Ahmad Omar Saeed Shaikh against the death sentence awarded to him in the Daniel Pearl kidnapping/murder case by an anti-terrorism court was admitted on Tuesday for regular hearing in Karachi by a division bench of the Sindh High Court.

The bench, comprising Justice Roshan Essani and Justice Mujeebullah Siddiqui, announced this when the appeal of Omar, filed by Abdul Waheed Katpar, came up for pre-admission hearing. Mr Katpar and Mohsin Imam advocates were present for the convicted appellant, whereas Sindh Advocate-General Raja Qureshi represented the State.

Similar orders were also passed on the appeals of the three accomplices of Omar against life terms awarded to them by the ATC, and on the State’s appeal for enhancement in their sentences.

On July 15 the Special Judge in Hyderabad had awarded death penalty to the British-born Omar, whereas his three accomplices - Fahad Nasim, Syed Salman Saqib and Shaikh Mohammad Adil - were given life terms. Their appeal was filed by Rai Bashir Advocate.

On Mr Katpar’s plea for hearing in Karachi, the advocate- general had contended that the Supreme Court had directed the matter to be heard in Hyderabad. However, Mr Katpar sought refuge in clause 7 of the notification of the SHC, dated February 19, according to which appeals, revision applications and miscellaneous applications, arising out of or involving a sentence of death, shall be heard at the principal seat of the SHC.

Justice Essani, however, observed that another bench had already decided that all appeals would be heard in Karachi. The court was of the view that contents of the memo of appeal required consideration and the parties should be put on notice.

Mr Katpar has claimed his client’s total innocence in the memo of appeal. He claimed that the impugned “judgment is against law and facts” and, therefore, should be set aside.

Counsel for the three co-accused claimed that the trial court had adopted “pick and choose” method and had considered only those points “which were favourable to the prosecution.”

The counsel has contended that neither the complainant, Marriane Pearl (widow of Daniel Pearl) nor any other witness appeared before the trial court to prove the contents of the FIR and signature of the complainant on it.

The State was first to file appeal for enhancement of sentence of the co-accused, who were convicted and sentenced under section 7 of the anti-terrorism act 1997 to suffer imprisonment for life.

Being aggrieved and dissatisfied with the judgment, Raja Qureshi had claimed that “overwhelming incriminating evidence has actually come on record” in respect of the three persons who have been awarded a lesser punishment than what is prescribed by law being normal punishment.

It is the contention of the State that the case set up by the prosecution was and is based on the conspiracy hatched by the four accused, in furtherance of which they committed separate acts with the common intention as well as with a meeting of minds, falling within the concept of criminal conspiracy. “Hence the accused would not in any manner deserve a punishment lesser to what has been awarded to the principal accused.”

With consent of the parties, the matter was adjourned to a date-in-office.

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