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Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Omar Sheikh: Did he get a fair trial?
British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh has been sentenced to death by a special anti-terrorism court in Pakistan for abducting and murdering US journalist Daniel Pearl.
Mr Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi while researching Islamic fundamentalism for the Wall Street Journal.
Execution in Pakistan is usually by hanging, but Omar Sheikh's defence team says it will appeal against the ruling.
His three co-accused, Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil, were also found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The trial has angered Islamic militants, who accuse Pakistan's government of betraying them by abandoning the Afghan Taleban and supporting the United States after 11 September.
What are your views on the outcome of this trial?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
This 'war against terrorism' has turned into a travesty of justice. The execution of Omar Sheikh will do nothing but prove to Muslims all over the world that the West regards their human rights as secondary to its military campaign.
None of us here knows for sure whether the trial was fair or not. If Omar is the real culprit then he should be hanged, no doubt about it. Looking at his criminal past I believe he is. But what amused me is that in Pakistan a murder trial takes more than a year to come to court. In this case it was less than 6 months. That makes me to believe that the Pakistani government staged this trial under pressure.
Ashraf Hussain, UK
At least he got a trial ,which is more then Daniel Pearl got.
How is anyone not directly involved to know if the trial was conducted fairly?
It's interesting that those who have remained silent about Pakistani 'justice' for a half century are now speaking about it rather loudly - and without much justification.
I don't understand that what the problem is with British government; they can't seem to be satisfied with any thing that Pakistan does. I do believe that Omar was guilty and he got what he deserved, he should have gotten a death sentence a long time ago.
We will never be in a position to know whether Sheikh is guilty of this crime. What is becoming increasingly clear is that certain people in Pakistan are extremely happy to be getting rid of him. Bear in mind that once upon a time he had access to some of the highest members of the Pakistani intelligence service, a service that is still riddled with strong pro-Taliban elements. As they say, "He knows too much", and this is why he will be killed.
I'd just like to ask those of you who don't think the guy got a fair trial ...... what makes you automatically think a foreign country is incapable of trying someone fairly? Did any of you go to Pakistan and hear the evidence or did you just hear the distilled version on the news? Miscarriages of justice are tragically commonplace both here and abroad but there's no reason to believe there was one in this case.
Christopher Magee, USA
Did he get a fair trial? Typical, every time a Brit is convicted of a criminal offence abroad, it's a fix! Just because he was found guilty doesn't mean that the evidence was bogus and he didn't do it.
The war against terrorism is the biggest challenge the civilised world has faced since its defeat of Nazism. We have learned a hard lesson as to how radicalism and fundamentalism can lead to destruction of the basis of any faith or creed, i.e. the human soul. Anyone who supports this kind of action is guilty of that same crime.
Sheikh is a known terrorist who was released from an Indian prison in exchange for the release of passengers on a hijacked Indian Airlines plane. Since he has not shown any compunction towards taking innocent human life, he should not be shown any mercy in return.
Frank, Pittsburgh, USA
I just went through Omar's profile on BBC's web site and I cannot believe that a person like him could commit murder. And I doubt that Omar had a fair trial because Pakistani authorities were under immense pressure by US government to convict Omar so they can prove that they are winning the war against terrorism. The war doesn't end with Omar's execution; to win the war US needs to understand what makes people like Omar turn against it. Its about time for US to find and address the 'real' issues!
Regardless of the religion, community, race, language or geographical location, everyone is same under the justice. I happened to see the video clip (with sound) of how D.Pearl was cut on his neck to death. All responsible for this cannot be humans. They should be punished the same way Pearl was killed. Whether they are punished by the courts or not one day they will have to answer to God.
I'd say it was partly a fair trial, because Sheikh Omar deserved a punishment for what he did. But I'm against the death penalty. I believe he was awarded the death sentence to please the US and it's allies.
The death penalty is the correct penalty for exacting justice from those guilty of murder. Daniel Pearl was executed in a most barbaric and savage manner by Islam extremists who have no regard for human life.
Get the rope and let justice be done by terminating Omar Saeed Sheikh for the violent crimes for which he has been found guilty.
T. Kubitz, Germany
While I cannot say whether the trial was fair or not (since I do not have all the legal details), I sure know that he got the right verdict.
I think he should be locked up, but not executed.
I was privileged to work within the Pakistan Supreme Court when doing a study on IT requirements. My experience was that the Pakistan justice system at the levels that would have dealt with Saeed Sheikh were of a world class quality. Dispensing and maintaining justice, despite what must be extraordinary pressures to be partisan.
Of course he got a fair trial, fairness is not whether he got away with it, but whether he was rightly convicted. Of that I am sure.
Considering that Omar should still be in prison for his proven part in a previous kidnapping and that the US has overwhelming evidence against this man in other cases, he should be in prison regardless of this verdict. My only complaint is that he was not extradited to the US. He perpetrated a crime against our citizen, he was vehemently anti-Semitic and unrepentant and now is threatening to kill the judge and prosecution. Death is too good for him.
With so much hype and hysteria surrounding the war on terrorism we should not expect anyone convicted of terrorism against the US to receive a fair trial. I think we should all follow the trial of John Walker, the American Taleban, with this in mind.
Everyone knows what amounts to a "confession" in brutal regimes. I wouldn't be surprised if this poor taxi driver was beaten into "testifying".
W Javed, London
It reminds me of Musharraf saying "I want the death sentence for Omar Sheikh" after watching the Pearl video.
How can we tell if it was fair or not? It was held behind closed doors! A fair trial should be held mainly in public, with only short closed sessions to hear sensitive evidence. Even so, the gist of the sensitive evidence should be made public.
Fair trial? What a joke. With reporters kept out and the Pakistani government licking Bush's boots, how could this be anything but a kangaroo court?
Helen Banks, Cornwall, UK
As he is found guilty the law of the land should prevail. Why should he be treated any different to any Pakistani national in the eyes of the law?
There is a fine line in this case between justice and vengeance, and whilst the crime committed was truly horrific, we should be certain that justice has been done before this man loses his life. After all, justice is one of our so-called values.
The sentence of death is never fair. It is wrong. The UK should express the correct legal sentiment that this sort of justice belongs to an era past.
Whilst this will not undo the terrible act that Sheikh perpetrated, it will at least ensure that he cannot carry out another. I hope Pakistan execute him quickly.
How can I judge if Omar Saeed Sheikh had a fair trial? Unless I hear the whole case in court, I know too little. In the US I do not question a court's decision when I am so removed from the case. Let others do the same!
Not a fair trial. He is victim of the military government's efforts to please the US and keep the firm grip on dictatorial rule.
If the Pakistan government has to show it to international community that it is backing the US lead anti-terrorism drive, it has no other option than to punish Omar Saeed Sheikh.
Omar Sheikh committed a crime abroad and has to face the penalties there. Jack Straw should not interfere.
Like some of the people already suggested this decision was already reached before the verdict. Even though he may deserve the death penalty/life imprisonment for his cowardly act in the name of religion I think the decision was made to please the West. Pakistan would be praised in the west as standing up to terrorism etc. I am sure any lay man would know that this verdict was done to please America. The trial could as well be held in America because it looks like Pakistan's constitution or judicial system could be easily set aside by American/Western pressure.
No way can this be called a fair trial. The verdict of death had already been issued even before the trial had started. Pakistan is obviously making a scapegoat out of this man to please Bush and his team.
The US and its allies have got to continue to relentlessly pursue and inflict defeats on these murderers. Today is a good day but a better day will come when the death sentence is carried out. Overall the American people are not pleased with the lagging efforts of Bush and his administration to destroy al-Qaeda. They want to see men like Saeed destroyed so that the morale of these organisations is further diminished and our dead are avenged.
Qaisar Butt, Pakistan
Now Omar Sheikh has been found guilty everyone in the West will laud the Pakistani justice system. If he had been acquitted the West would have said that Pakistani justice had failed or worse that Pakistan sponsors terrorism and is part of some axis of evil.
Although I believe that Omar Saeed Sheikh is very likely to be the culprit given his track record, I do not think that the trial has been fair.
The sentence looks more like a result of Pakistan's need to appease the West than its own desire to bring the criminal(s) to justice.
By any standards, fairer than the process Daniel Pearl was put through prior to his murder.
To Andrew Cover, UK: Of course the trial was more fair than the 'trial' Pearl received before his horrific murder. But atrocious crimes should be answered with trials that are *scrupulously* fair. Excusing anything less will lead to net injustice which benefits nobody.
Well done to Pakistan for standing up to this man and his group. Jack Straw should keep his nose out of this and let Pakistani justice hand out its own punishment, and learn from them how to stand up to criminals.
CS, UK so you would be in favour of Britain adopting a form of Shariah law then would you?
15 Jul 02 | South Asia
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