Sindh govt to file petition to block Omar Sheikh’s release

Karachi: The Sindh government will file an application to block the release of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the man previously convicted of kidnapping Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl and facilitating his murder.

Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said the government will file an application against the Sindh High Court’s order for the release on Monday. “They are not likely to be released today because the court order will reach the prison and legal opinion will be sought on it,” he explained.

The court has ordered the release of Sheikh and struck down any further orders to detain him on Thursday. It was expected that he may be released from the Central Jail, Karachi today (Saturday).

The Sindh High Court issued a short order that the detention orders of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib were null and void while hearing the Daniel Pearl murder case.

The men were detained after they were deemed free to go in April and were being kept at the Karachi Central Jail. However, their lawyers challenged them being further detained on the Sindh government orders. This is what the court struck down as being issued “without lawful authority”.

Nadeem Ahmed, the lawyer for Sheikh and others, said the jail authorities haven’t sent the release order to the high court for verification yet. The court closes at 3pm and without the release order’s verification, Sheikh cannot be released.

He said the authorities are not picking up his phone calls or those of Sheikh’s family.

Hassan Sehto, the superintendent of Central Jail Karachi, said they have sent the release order to the court. “We will see about that after the verification,” he said when asked about the expected release of the prisoner.

Two of Sheikh’s family members arrived at the jail but left without speaking to SAMAA Digital. “The release orders haven’t been verified. We are going back to the high court. We have nothing to comment,” one of them said without revealing his name.

Pearl, 38, was the 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, who is also known as the ‘shoe bomber’ for trying to detonate a shoe bomb while on a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001.

Pearl’s wife Mariane Pearl, a US national who was living in Karachi’s Zamzama, wrote a letter to the Artillery Maidan police on February 2, 2002, and said that her husband disappeared on January 23, 2002. She said she received an email from the abductors saying that he has been abducted “in retaliation for the imprisonment of Pakistani men by the US government in Cuba and other complaints”.

A graphic video showing Pearl’s decapitation was delivered to the US consulate in Karachi nearly a month after he was kidnapped.

After this, a case was filed against the suspects and 23 witnesses were produced in the case by the prosecution. Sheikh was arrested by Pakistani security agencies in February 2002 and an anti-terrorism court convicted him and others on July 15, 2002.

An investigation, led by Pearl’s friend and former Wall Street Journal colleague Asra Nomani and a Georgetown University professor, claimed the reporter was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, not Sheikh. Mohammed — better known as KSM — was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and is being held at Guantanamo Bay.