The Sindh High Court on Thursday announced its verdict on appeals by the four men convicted in the Daniel Pearl abduction and murder case.
The death sentence of the prime accused Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh was commuted to seven years in prison while the other three convicts, Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil— who were earlier handed life sentences — were set free by the court.
Since Sheikh has been in prison for the past 18 years, his seven-year sentence will be counted from the time served.
After hearing arguments and examining the record and proceedings of the case, a two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha announced the verdict on the appeals filed by the convicts 18 years ago.
In 2002, an anti-terrorism court had sentenced to death Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh and life term to the other three for the kidnapping and killing of the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal who was researching a story on religious extremists in Karachi.
While arguing the case the lawyers for the appellants, Rai Bashir and Khawaja Naveed Ahmed, had submitted that the prosecution had miserably failed to prove its case against their clients beyond any reasonable doubt and prosecution witnesses were mostly policemen, whose testimonies could not be relied upon.
They had further contended that Naseem and Adil Sheikh’s confessions before a judicial magistrate were defective and not voluntary.
They had argued that the recovery of the laptop from Naseem was shown to have been made 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.
Deputy Prosecutor General Saleem Akhtar had supported the trial court’s verdict and submitted that the prosecution had proved its case against the appellants beyond a shadow of doubt and had requested the court to dismiss the appeals.