In a surprise move, British born al-Qaeda leader Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was charged in the abduction and murder of US Journalist Daniel Pearl, will be released from jail tomorrow (Saturday), a Pakistan court ordered on Friday.
A two-judge bench of the Sindh High Court on Thursday directed security agencies not to keep Sheikh and other accused under “any sort of detention” and declared all notifications of the Sindh government related to their detention “null and void”.
It said that the four men’s detention was “illegal”.
According to a Jail superintendent as reported by Hindustan Times, the four men could not be released from Karachi’s Central Jail on Thursday as the prison authorities received orders from the Sindh High Court for their release very late. They will now be released on Saturday as Friday is a public holiday in the country.
The US on the other hand expressed “deep concern” on their release.
“We are deeply concerned by the reports of the December 24 ruling of Sindh High Court to release multiple terrorists responsible for the murder of Daniel Pearl. We have been assured that the accused have not been released at this time,” the US State Department said in a tweet.
In April this year, a two-judge bench of the Sindh High court commuted the death sentence of Sheikh to seven years imprisonment. His three aides were also acquitted who were serving life sentences.
The Sindh government however refused to release them and kept them in detention under the Maintenance of Public Order. Their names have been put on the no-fly list so they could not leave the country. They will also required to appear before the court whenever summoned.
Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, 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.
A three-judge apex court bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam is hearing the appeal by the Sindh government and the family of the slain journalist against the acquittal of Sheikh. Pearl’s murder took place three years after Sheikh, along with Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, was released by India in 1999 and given safe passage to Afghanistan in exchange for the nearly 150 passengers of hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814.
It may be mentioned that in 2017 his life was depicted in the movie “Omerta”, played by Rajkumar Rao and directed by Hansal Mehta.