Global Freedom of Expression

State v. Fahad Naseem

On Appeal Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Press / Newspapers
  • Date of Decision
    July 15, 2002
  • Outcome
    Decision Outcome (Disposition/Ruling), Monetary Damages / Fines, Imprisonment
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Pakistan, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Violence Against Speakers / Impunity
  • Tags

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Hyderabad convicted Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, Fahad Naseem, Syed Salman and Muhammad Adil of kidnapping and murdering Daniel Pearl, correspondent and South Asian bureau chief for the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal, in Karachi, Pakistan on February 1, 2002.

Pearl was killed while on assignment, investigating links between the Al Qaeda network and shoe bomber Richard Reid.

The convicts have appealed to the Sindh High Court which has not yet heard the appeals.

Columbia Global Freedom of Expression notes that some of the information contained in this report was derived from secondary sources

This case analysis was provided by the Pakistan Press Foundation


Pearl disappeared on January 23, 2002, while on assignment investigating links between the Al Qaeda network and shoe bomber Richard Reid. Pearl was planning to meet Syed Mubarak Shah Gilani a religious leader who was believed to be a mentor to Richard Reid.

According to Pearl’s wife, Mariane Pearl, in the First Information Report, she came to know about the kidnapping from an email received on January 27, 2002. The email contained photographs of Pearl being detained in inhumane conditions and demands including the release of certain Pakistani captives from Guantanamo Bay. On February 21, 2002, Pakistan and US authorities announced that they had received a video tape showing Pearl being beheaded.

The police arrested four suspects: Fahad Naseem, Syed Salman, Muhammad Adil, and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. They were charged under various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The trial first commenced in ATC Karachi but was later transferred to ATC Hyderabad after the prosecution filed a criminal transfer application, citing security concerns.

All four were convicted under Sections 120-A PPC (Criminal conspiracy), 365-A PPC (Kidnapping or abduction for extorting property, valuable security), 302 PPC read with section 6(a) ( Definition of a terrorist act) of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was sentenced to death while the other three convicts were sentenced to life imprisonment and fined half a million rupees each. The accused were also ordered to pay Rs. 500,000 each to Mariane Pearl.

Amjad Farooqui, an absconding co-accused was killed on September 26, 2004 in an encounter with security agencies in Nawabshah (Shaheed Benazirabad). Another co-accused absconder, Qari Hashim, was arrested by the police in August 2005 and charged but was acquitted October 23, 2014 for lack of evidence.

All the convicts filed an appeal to the Sindh High Court in July 2002 challenging their convictions. The state has also filed an appeal to the high court, seeking a death sentence for Fahad Naseem, Syed Salman and Muhammad Adi as well as Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.

None of the appeals has been heard yet.


Decision Overview

Judge Shah delivered the opinion of the Court and convicted the four accused.

The main issue before the court was to determine whether there was enough evidence to corroborate the charges alleged by the prosecution.

The court framed eight questions for determination and answered each in turn to enable it to reach a decision.

(1) Whether the accused along with the absconding co-accused hatched a conspiracy on 11/01/2002 at Room No.411 Akbar International Hotel, Rawalpindi to abduct Daniel Pearl, a Jewish American citizen, a professional journalist belonging to The Wall Street Journal, U.S.A. for raising demands of ransom?

(2) Whether in pursuance of the conspiracy hatched, the accused persons had abducted Daniel Pearl on 23/01/2002 at about 7.00 p.m. near the gate of hotel Metropole, Saddar, Karachi, adjacent to Village Restaurant to an unknown destination and detained him in their captivity?

(3) Whether after abducting Daniel Pearl the accused transmitted the demands for ransom through e-mails DT. 27/1/2002 (with documents) to The Wall Street Journal amongst others, and the complainant Mariane Pearl in the following terms:-

  1. a) Lawyers should be provided to the Pakistani detainees with the FBI so that they (Pakistanis) can fight their case.
  2. b) The Pakistani detainees who are jailed in Cuba should be kept in Pakistani Jails so that they could fight their case in Pakistani Courts.
  3. c) The return of former Taliban Ambassador Mulla Muhammed Zaeef to Pakistan.
  4. d) Delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan or the repayment of money allocated for those F-16 jets as well as 15 per cent interest.

(4) Whether the accused after having failed to receive the demanded ransom had sent yet another e-mail (with documents) to the complainant on 30th January 2002 threatening to kill Pearl within 24 hours if their demands were not met?

(5) Whether the accused on or after 30th January 2002 committed murder of Daniel Pearl by slaughtering and caused the evidence of the dead body to disappear?

(6) Whether the accused in collusion with the absconding co- accused prepared, recorded and transmitted the video cassette of slaughter of Daniel Pearl which conveyed the visual images and sounds, the effect of which has struck terror, fear, and sense of insecurity in society?

(7) Whether all the accused have aided, abetted, participated in, committed acts for achieving the objective of the hatched conspiracy of kidnapping for ransom, raising demands of ransom, and causing murder of Daniel Pearl?

(8) What offence, if any, the accused have committed?

The court the examined all the evidence including testimonies given by several witnesses. Syed Ali Ashraf Shah, Judge Anti-Terrorism Court Hyderabad, answered each of the questions above in the positive and convicted all four accused under section 365-A, 302 PPC read with Section 6(a) of the Anti-terrorism Act and section 120-A PPC. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was sentenced to death while the other three convicts were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Expands Expression

This was the first ever conviction issued by a Pakistani court for the murder of a journalist. In the 72 cases of killing of media practitioners since 2002, there have been convictions in only five cases, according to Pakistan Press Foundation.

However, some serious concerns have been raised as to the quality of the evidence relied upon by the court and its decision.

In 2011 The Pearl Project published a report titled ‘‘The Truth Left Behind: Inside the Kidnapping and Murder of Daniel Pearl.’’ The report stated that only four of the 27 men allegedly involved in the murder have been charged and convicted, while 14 others remain free. The report also revealed that the person who actually killed Pearl was not Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh but Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the mastermind behind the 9/11 bombings.


Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

The decision was cited in:

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