The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday, April 2, commuted the death sentences of the key accused in the case of slain Wall Street Journal reporter, who was abducted and beheaded in Pakistan in 2002.
The death sentence of the prime accused Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh was commuted to seven years in prison while the other three convicts, Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil, who were earlier handed life sentences, were set free by the court.
Sheikh's exact role in the murder of Pearl has long been disputed. However, since Sheikh has been in prison for the past 18 years, his seven-year sentence will be counted from the time served and was expected to be released, the report further said.
A video of Pearl's murder emerged a few weeks after his death and was posted on the internet.
An anti-terrorism court (ATC) had sentenced to death prime accused Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh, commonly known as Shaikh Omar, and life term to co-accused Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil for the abduction of the slain journalist.
Shaikh Omar and other convicts had moved the SHC in 2002 challenging their convictions handed down by the Hyderabad ATC after finding them guilty of abducting and killing Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal who was researching a story on religious extremists, in January 2002 in Karachi.
While arguing the case, the lawyers for the appellants had submitted that the prosecution had miserably failed to prove its case against their clients beyond any reasonable doubt and prosecution witnesses were mostly policemen, whose testimonies could not be relied upon, Dawn news reported.
They had further contended that Naseem and Adil Sheikh's confessions before a judicial magistrate were defective and not voluntary.
(With IANS inputs)