Daniel Pearl murder case hearing begins in jail: Next hearing on 12th; IG Prisons flouts court orders, stops reporters' entry -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Daniel Pearl murder case hearing begins in jail: Next hearing on 12th; IG Prisons flouts court orders, stops reporters’ entry

KARACHI- The trial against 11 accused, including prime suspect Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh in US journalist Daniel Pearl abduction and murder case, began inside Central Prison Karachi on Friday. The trial court, headed judge Anti-terrorism Court (ATC-III) Arshad Noor Khan, issued non-bailable warrants of seven absconding accused Amjad Husain Farooqi alias Hayder Farooqi alias Hasan, Asif alias Qasim, Hashim, Qari Abdul Qadeer, Hasan alias Ahmad Bhai, Imtiaz Siddiqi and a person who purchased Polaroid camera, and directed police to arrest and produce them before the court on April 12, 2002 – the next date of hearing.

It may be noted that despite clear directions of the trial court to jail official regarding permission to eight reporters – six from local and two from foreign media, for coverage of court proceedings of the special case (No 5/2002) inside the prison, the jail authorities did not allow anyone of them even to witness the proceedings, making it an in-camera trial. Judge Arshad Noor Khan, through a letter (ATC-III/K/1047/2002 dated April 4, 2002) had directed Superintendent Central Prison Karachi to allow eight journalists to attend the court today at about 10:00am after scrutiny of their documents.

But the Inspector General (IG) Prisons Brig Nisar Mehar refused to allow entry to these reporters in the courtroom. When pointed out that the refusal might lead to contempt of court, he said: “This is in between us and the court.” Journalists from Pakistani media present in the jail staged a 10-minute protest sit-in against the attitude of Sindh home department and jail authorities and also boycotted the press briefing of the AG Sindh Raja Qureshi. Some of the foreign reporters, however, attended the briefing.

Strict security measures for Sheikh Omar, Sheikh Adil, Salman Saqib and Fahad Nasim were taken by police and other agencies in the jail. Its gate 2 was kept closed for the whole day and mobiles of police and rangers patrolled the roads leading to jail. Khwaja Naveed Ahmed, counsel for Sheikh Adil and Fahad Nasim told newsmen later that Sheikh Omar’s counsel Abdul Waheed Katpar, sought through a miscellaneous application the copies of email messages sent to media organisations, photographs of Daniel Pearl and reports of experts.

The AG Sindh, he said, submitted he would supply the copies to defence counsel but copies of experts’ report could not be supplied to the defence counsel as he was not entitled for it under Section 265-C of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The court directed him to supply the copies of emails and photographs and disposed of the application.

Khwaja Naveed further said that only Saeed Shaikh, father of Sheikh Omar was present during the hearing among many relatives of the other accused. He informed that he filed an application seeking permission to family members of all accused to witness the court proceedings. The court issued notice to the AG Sindh for April 12 on this application, he said.

Khwaja Naveed also informed that Rai Bashir advocate came from Lahore and filed power on behalf of accused Syed Salman Saqib. He also filed three separate applications, which the court allowed, Khwaja said adding that Rai prayed for the copies of statements of accused under Section 161 CrPC and also for granting 10 minutes for reading the case file.

In his third application he requested the court to provide a doctor of his choice to his client Salman Saqib, who was suffering from Hepatitis C. Conceding to the request the AG Sindh submitted that the accused would have to bear all medical expenses. The court appointed Dr Tabish of Aga Khan University Hospital for examining accused Salman, Khwaja said and informed that Salman spoke before the court like a Khateeb. He stated that he was a Jihadi and had gone to the Occupied Kashmir for Jihad. He also asserted that he sacrificed for Pakistan and police involved him in a false and fabricated case to please America. He submitted that Fahad Nasim was his cousin and was arrested as he was residing with him.

Khwaja Naveed further stated that Salman complained that he was brutally tortured by police during investigation process. He complained that he was slapped several times, kicked and hanged upside down at least four times which resulted in injuries to his old wounds, which he had received during the Jihad. Salman also complained that Inspector Qamar and SP Farooq Awan took away Rs 67,000 from his pocket and did not return the money to his family, Khwaja informed and added that the SSP Investigation-II Manzoor Mughal, who was present in the hearing, undertook to inquire about the allegation.

Shaikh Omar remained calm and silent during the proceedings, he talked to his father twice but did not say any thing before the court, Khwaja Naveed said. He informed newsmen that the prosecution team, comprising AG Sindh Raja Qureshi, Barrister Zahoor-ul-Haq and Shahabuddin Memon advocate.

The hearing lasted for about an hour and was adjourned till April 12 for framing charge on accused, Khwaja Naveed added. On March 29, 2002 prosecution submitted final charge sheet against 11 accused including seven absconders before Administrative Judge ATC Justice Shabbir Ahmed of the SHC. The charge sheet contained charges of murder, kidnapping for ransom and terrorism.

The prosecution case is loaded with 36 witnesses including an agent of US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) John Mulligan and two officials of the American Consulate Karachi, Regional Security Officer Rendel de Pent and computer expert Ronald Josef, who are suppose to be deposed in any of the next hearings. Omar Shaikh’s date of arrest was shown as Feb 12, 2002 from Lahore in the final charge sheet, however, Omar claimed that he gave voluntary arrest on February 5.

Only two accused, Fahad Nasim and Salman Saqib, gave confessional statements under Section 164 CrPC before a judicial magistrate of Karachi. A taxi driver Nasir Abbas recorded his statement under Section 164 identifying Sheikh Omar as the person who whisked Pearl away in a white car on Jan 23 near Village restaurant. Police have not succeeded in the recovery Pearl body, crime weapon, place of incident and any vehicle used in kidnapping.
Source: The News