Cablegate: Status of Daniel Pearl Murder Case and Omar Saeed Sheikh
PP RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHIL #2487 2871207
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 141207Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5338
INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 1001
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1520
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 5594
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 7014
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 7977
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 2375
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L ISLAMABAD 002487SIPDISE.O. 12958: DECL: 10/12/2019
TAGS: PREL PTER PGOV PK
SUBJECT: STATUS OF DANIEL PEARL MURDER CASE AND OMAR SAEED SHEIKH
Classified By: Anne W. Patterson for reasons 1.4 (b) (d)
1. (C) On August 13, the Sindh High Court yet again continued the adjournment in the appellate case of Omar Saeed Sheikh, the convicted murderer of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl. According to Pakistani legal experts, the refusal of the Court to hear the appeal or set a date for further hearings places Sheikh’s case in “sine-die adjournment” status, which means that his appeal proceedings are adjourned for an indefinite period of time. Sheikh was found guilty of murdering Pearl by a Karachi Court in 2002 and was sentenced to death. Before the indefinite adjournment, Sheikh’s attorneys were attempting to appeal the verdict and sentence to the Sindh High Court. The prosecutor had filed a separate appeal with the High Court requesting tougher sentences for all individuals convicted of providing assistance to Omar Saeed Sheikh in the murder.
2. (C) In Sheikh’s now dormant appeal, his lawyers had challenged the veracity of the testimony of some of the witnesses in the initial trial. As a result, the High Court ordered the lower court to re-hear witnesses’ statements. In fact, most of the witnesses whose testimony is in question are not available to provide statements in future proceedings. Many have moved outside of Pakistan because they fear for their safety and security, since it is widely believed that supporters of Sheikh would threaten, harm, or kill the witnesses in order to prevent them from testifying. The unavailability of witnesses makes this aspect of the appeal almost impossible to pursue.
3. (C) In any event, neither Sheikh’s attorneys nor the Pakistani government has pursued the lower court re-hearing because both sides understand this could open up a can of worms, with the lower court delving into other aspects of the case, including the sentencing. The potential downside for Sheikh is that, in this event, the lower court could order swift implementation of the death penalty. Post’s understanding, from speaking with Pakistani legal experts, is that the prosecutor and Sheikh’s attorneys are thus passively allowing the current verdict and sentence to stand. Additionally, our legal contacts agree that, since Sheikh has received the death sentence, the chance of any successful appeal to the Sindh High Court is minimal.
4. (C) Sheikh was transferred from a prison in Hyderabad, Sindh to a high-security prison in Karachi in August 2009. Embassy legal contacts advised that this transfer was part of regular prison procedure and not due to immediate security concerns or for pre-staging Sheikh for his release. It is Pakistani government policy to shift prisoners between prisons every two to three years for routine security and administrative reasons. Additionally, prisoners can request to be transferred to a different prison located closer to their relatives to facilitate family visitation.
5. (C) Comment: Though Sheikh’s appeals still formally exists in the Sindh High Court, Pakistani legal observers agree that his case is indefinitely adjourned. In the Pakistani context, this means that all the suspects can be kept incarcerated without any foreseeable end. With Sheikh’s murder conviction and death sentence, there is, in fact, no legal or political will to release him or reverse his sentence. Sheikh’s prison transfer does not, in Post’s opinion, indicate a move to release him. Post will follow up on this matter in political channels to ensure that Sheikh’s conviction and sentence stay in force. End Comment.