ISLAMABAD – Pakistani lawyer for the family of murdered American journalist Daniel Pearl faces an uphill battle to overturn the acquittal of a British-born man convicted in the 2002 murder.
That’s because the prosecutor in the original case tried all four men – including Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is believed to have lured Pearl to death – as one man on the same charges against all of them, though each one played another role.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Faisal Siddiqi, the lawyer for Perle’s family, said, although the first indictment painted the four defendants with the same brush, “Don’t you, for doubts about one or two or three pieces of evidence, speak them all free. “
The four men were acquitted in April on the grounds that the evidence in the first charge was inadequate. Siddiqi said his argument in the Supreme Court, Pakistan’s highest, was that conspiracy, ransom kidnapping and murder deserve separate consideration.
Siddiqi said the supreme court hearing to overturn the acquittals would resume Tuesday and most likely complete before the end of January. Both the Pearl family and the Pakistani government appealed the acquittals.
Siddiqi said picking up even the ransom abduction would send Sheikh back to death row, where he had been since his 2002 conviction. He was taken to a prison in the port city of Karachi in Sindh Province after the Sindh High Court overturned his conviction. The three others charged with Perle’s murder – Fahad Naseem, Adil Sheikh, and Salman Saqib – were acquitted on all charges.
Sheikh was sentenced to death and the other three were sentenced to life imprisonment for their roles in Perle’s murder.
Siddiqi said he had argued that the judges have a duty to both the accused and the victim, and while “no innocent person should be tried … no guilty person should be released”.
The Pearl family lawyer said the overwhelming feeling was, “If there is any doubt, let’s free the defendant without thinking about what happened to the victim,” adding that he is asking the judges to “balance the matter.” to restore between the accused and the victim “.
The acquittal outraged the United States, and last month the US warned that Sheikh could not escape justice. Acting US Attorney General Jeffery Rosen praised Pakistan for invoking the Sindh Court order, but said that if “those efforts are unsuccessful, the United States stands ready to take custody of Omar Sheikh to stand trial “.
Sheikh remains in jail despite the Sindh High Court’s orders last month to release him pending the appeal. Sheikh’s attorney Mehmood A. Sheikh, no relative, has taken his client’s freedom claim to the Supreme Court. So far it has not made a decision on publication.
Siddiqi said the prosecutor in Sheikh’s original trial was held under significant pressure caused by Islamic militants who threatened the prosecutor general and even forced the trial to take place within the confines of the prison.
Sheikh was convicted of luring Pearl to a meeting in Karachi, where he was kidnapped. Pearl had investigated the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, known as the “shoe bomber” after attempting to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes.
A gruesome video of Perle’s beheading was sent to the US consulate. The Wall Street Journal reporter, 38, from Encino, California, was kidnapped on January 23, 2002.
Kathy Gannon, The Associated Press