Islamabad, July 15: An anti-terrorism court today sentenced to death Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the mastermind in the kidnapping and murder of The Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl.
Judge Syed Ali Ashraf Shah found Sheikh, a Briton of Pakistani descent and a founder-member of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, and three accomplices guilty of the reporter’s abduction and murder, prosecutor Raja Qureshi told reporters this morning.
He handed down life sentences to Salman Saquib, Fahad Naseem and Sheikh Adil, who was accused of sending pictures of Pearl in captivity in two e-mails to news organisations.
After hearing 23 prosecution witnesses, the court collectively fined the four accused Rs 2 million after the conviction on charges that included murder, conspiracy to kidnap, demanding ransom and destroying evidence. The money will be handed over Pearl’s wife Mariane and their son Adam, who was born after his father’s killing.
Sheikh, who was arrested in India in 1994 and charged with kidnapping four foreign tourists, was released along with Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar and another terrorist to win the release of passengers aboard the hijacked IC-814 in December 1999.
All four men pleaded not guilty. Their lawyers said that they would appeal against the verdict, first to the High Court and then to the Supreme Court if necessary. The prosecutor said he may launch his own appeal to have Saquib, Naseem and Adil executed along with Sheikh.
‘‘I will await government instructions (on) whether the state will appeal the life sentences against the three or not,’’ said Qureshi. ‘‘Whatever the state’s instructions, I will act upon them.’’
The closed trial in a special anti-terrorism court began on April 22 at Karachi, but was moved to Hyderabad after there was a threat to blow up the facility.
Sheikh was arrested in February. The US had asked that he be extradited, but President Musharraf turned down the request, insisting that the trial and punishment should be carried out in Pakistan to send a message that extremists won’t be tolerated. (LA Times-Washington Post)