Skip to comments.Pakistan Court Acquits Men in Killing of Americans
Posted on 02/17/2003 1:00:50 PM PST by Aaron_A
A Pakistani court on Monday threw out a lower court's conviction of two men sentenced to death for the killing of four U.S. oilworkers, saying the evidence against them was insufficient, a defense lawyer said.
The two had been found guilty of shooting the Americans and their Pakistani driver in the port city of Karachi in 1997.
But a two-member bench of the Sindh provincial High Court acquitted Ahmed Saeed and Mohammed Saleem, who had been given death sentences by an anti-terrorism court in August 1999, lawyer Azizullah Sheikh told Reuters.
"The court in its ruling said that the evidence against them was full of doubts," he said.
The Americans, who worked as auditors for U.S. petroleum giant Union Texas, were shot dead in Karachi on November 12, 1997, while they were on way to their office from a hotel.
The accused belonged to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which is now a coalition partner in the national government.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said last month that a Pakistani group suspected of links to al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, had claimed responsibility for the killings. Al Qaeda, led by Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden (news - web sites), had established itself in Afghanistan (news - web sites) and is still the prime target of Washington's declared war against terrorism following the September 11, 2001 suicide attacks on the United States.
Boucher said Lashkar-e-Jhanvi had also carried out a May 2002 bombing in Karachi that killed 14 people, including 11 French naval technicians. It is also suspected in the kidnap and murder of U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl last year.
Saleem was arrested in 1998 and Saeed in 1999. Eight other MQM leaders and members, including the group's self-exiled leader Altaf Hussain were declared absconders in the case.
Sheikh said that after Monday's acquittals, cases would be dropped against the absconders as well.
STILL IN JAIL FOR SEPARATE OFFENCE
He said the judges gave his clients the benefit of the doubt, "because all pieces of evidence, including the eyewitness accounts, were doubtful."
However he said the two men had not been released because they were serving jail terms of seven year each for the possession of illegal weapons in a separate case.
The MQM welcomed the court verdict.
"From the day one we had been saying that cases against our members were fabricated," said MQM parliamentarian Kanwar Khalid Younus. "They were also interrogated by American investigators, who found nothing against them."
Younus blamed Pakistani intelligence agencies for the wrongful conviction. "At that time they protected militant groups, but put the blame on the MQM," he said.
The killing of the U.S. oilworkers was not the first attack on Americans on Pakistani soil, but it was first one in which employees of a U.S. multinational company were targeted.
Since then, there have been several attacks on Western targets in Karachi.
Just over a month after the attack on the French naval technicians, a car packed with explosives blew up outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi on June 14, 2002 killing 12 Pakistanis.
Police have blamed the recent attacks on Islamic militants outraged by Pakistan's support for the U.S.-led war on terror.
But in 1997, the MQM, which was at loggerheads with the establishment, was accused of most of the ethnic and political violence in Karachi.
The MQM dominates the city politically and enjoys massive support among Urdu-speaking people who migrated from India at the time of partition in 1947 and their descendants.
But of course. Members of the "religion of peace" would never do anything like that.
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Actually they get congratulations for doing just that.