New Delhi (NVI): The US Department of State has expressed deep concern over Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three aides involved in Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder case and said that the judgement is an affront to terrorism victims everywhere.
“The court’s decision is an affront to terrorism victims everywhere, including in Pakistan”, Department of State said in an official statement.
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three aides – Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib – were convicted and sentenced in the abduction and murder case of Pearl in Karachi in 2002.
The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered release of Omar Sheikh, who was the main accused in the beheading of Daniel Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal in Karachi in 2002 as well as the 1994 kidnapping of another United States citizen in India, and had been convicted by a lower court and awarded death sentence.
However, last year, Sindh High Court acquitted Omar Saeed Sheikh and the three others. And on Thursday, the country’s top court upheld that verdict.
“The United States recognizes past Pakistani actions to hold Omar Sheikh accountable and notes that Sheikh currently remains detained under Pakistani law,” the statement added.
Reacting to the acquittal, US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken, in a strongly worded statement noted, “We expect the Pakistani government to expeditiously review its legal options to ensure justice is served. We take note of the Attorney General’s statement that he intends to seek review and recall of the decision.”
Stating that they are committed to securing justice for Daniel Pearl’s family and holding terrorists accountable, Blinken added, “We are also prepared to prosecute Sheikh in the United States for his horrific crimes against an American citizen.”
As US voiced its ‘outrage’ over the top court verdict, spokesman of India’s External Affairs Ministry, Anurag Srivastava stated, “I had mentioned earlier about the very low conviction rate in Pakistan when it comes to sentencing of terror accused. This case truly demonstrates Pakistan’s intent on taking action on terror front.”
Describing as “travesty of justice” that Sheikh could not be found “guilty of any charges in this heinous act of terror”, the spokesman said, “Our position on Pakistan taking sustained, verifiable, credible and irreversible action against terrorism and terrorist funding emanating from all territory under its control remain unchanged.”
India has particular interest in Sheikh since he was released from an Indian jail, along with two other top terrorists – Masood Azhar, who later formed Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit, and Mushtaq Zargar alias ‘Latram’, chief commander of Al Umar Mujahideen outfit, to secure freedom of 166 passengers and crew of Indian Airlines plane IC-814 hijacked in December 1999.
All the three had been held in connection with acts of terrorism in India.
On December 24, 1999, five Pakistani terrorists hijacked the IC-814 plane during its flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi and commandeered it to Kandahar in Afghanistan, which was then under Taliban rule.
The hijackers demanded release of Sheikh, Azhar and Zargar and India had to accept the demand for safety of the hostages.
After his release, Sheikh lived in Pakistan but kept visiting Afghanistan to train terrorists.
Pearl was abducted and beheaded while he was in Pakistan investigating a story in 2002 on the links between the country’s powerful spy agency ISI and Al-Qaeda.