British-born al-Qaeda leader Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three aides – the main accused in the abduction and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl – will remain in jail for another three months, according to an order issued by Pakistan’s Sindh government on Wednesday.
The announcement of extending their detention was made by prosecutors during a hearing of the Supreme Court, which was to decide on Sheikh’s release. The apex court last week barred the government from releasing them.
Faisal Siddiqi, the lawyer representing Pearl’s family, told the media that the government prosecutor, Fiaz Shah, told the judges he needed more time for paperwork to prepare for the case.
The court accepted his argument and adjourned the hearing till October 21.
In April, a two-judge Sindh High Court bench commuted the death sentence of 46-year-old Sheikh, who was convicted in the abduction and murder of Pearl in 2002, to seven years. The court also acquitted his three aides who were serving life terms in the case – almost two decades after they were found guilty and jailed.
Two days after the Sindh High Court overturned Sheikh’s conviction, the Sindh government invoked the Maintenance of Public Order to keep the four convicts in jail. The Sindh government filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the high court verdict. Pearl’s parents also filed an appeal to the Supreme Court against the judgment of the high court to release the accused.
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 alleged links between the country’s powerful spy agency ISI and al-Qaeda.