The Sindh High Court has ordered the immediate release of Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three aides declaring their detention in connection with the abduction and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl “null and void”.
As per media reports, while ordering their release, the court directed their names to be put on a no-fly list so that they do not leave Pakistan. In April, 2020 appeals were filed by Omar Sheikh and his aides Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib that were heard by the court after eighteen years, acquitting all three except Omar Sheikh.
However, the Pakistani government placed these men under preventive detention for a period of three months under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The orders were renewed for another three months. In October, their detention was extended again.
It commuted Omar Sheikh’s death sentence to seven years in prison and fined him twenty lakhs. Sheikh had spent 18 years on death row and his seven-year sentence for kidnapping was counted in the time already served. Now, through Sindh Court’s latest order, all four men are to be released immediately. As per a Pakistan media outlet, one of the high court judges remarked that these men have been rotting in jail for 18 years “without committing any crime.”
Daniel Pearl was South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in Karachi in January 2002 while researching links between militants in Pakistan and Richard C Reid, known as the shoe bomber for trying to detonate a bomb while on a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001. Pearl was later beheaded by his captors in Karachi, as reported by some media sources. A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the United States consulate in Karachi nearly a month after he was kidnapped.
A British citizen of Pakistani origin, Omar was freed by the Indian Government in December, 1999 in exchange for the Indian Airlines passengers of a hijacked airliner IC814 from Kathmandu to Kandahar.