Pakistan’s top court has ordered the release of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born Islamist militant who was sentenced to death in 2002 for the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Pearl was abducted in January 2002 during an interrogation of al-Qaeda in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi and was beheaded by Islamic militants. A video of the killing was posted online.
Sheikh was convicted of masterminding Pearl’s murder and was sentenced to death in 2002. However, Sheikh has always denied his role, and questions remain as to whether he really committed the murder, or was only a secondary figure involved in the kidnapping.
A recently leaked letter shows him appearing for the first time acknowledging the “relatively minor” role in Pearl’s murder, although his lawyer says it was written under strictures.
In April, the Sindh High Court commuted the death sentence of Sheikh to seven years in prison for kidnapping, and acquitted three of the accused in the case. As Sheikh had already been sentenced to 18 years in prison, the court ordered his release.
However, his release was delayed after Pearl’s family and the Sindh government of Pakistan appealed against the decision in the Supreme Court, requesting an extension of Sheikh’s jail term.
Following a 2-1 majority decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court judges upheld the Sindh High Court’s decision and the appeals were dismissed.
Sheikh’s lawyer, Mahmoud A. Sheikh, said he could be released on Friday.
He said, “It depends on how fast the government of Pakistan will speed up the implementation of the order of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.” Sheikh is in his custody and if he wants, the Sindh government will send him tomorrow. Can release It’s up to them.
In a statement to the Guardian, Pearl’s family lawyer, Faisal Siddiqui, said the family was “completely shocked” by the decision to acquit Sheikh and allow his release.
“Today’s verdict is a complete cover of justice and the release of these killers is endangering everywhere and the people of Pakistan,” he said.
“We urge the US government to take all necessary steps under the law to address this injustice.” We also hope that the Pakistani administration will take all necessary steps to improve this pursuit of justice. No amount of injustice will defeat our determination to fight for justice for Daniel Pearl.
The decision is likely to have implications for the United States.
White House spokeswoman Jane Sackie said the United States was “outraged” by the ruling, adding that the Biden administration was committed to bringing justice to Pearl’s family.
“This decision to pardon and release Sheikh and other accused is a fight against the victims of terrorism all over the world, including Pakistan,” he said.
He called on the Pakistani government to “rapidly consider its legal options, including allowing the United States to prosecute Sheikh for the senseless killing of an American citizen and journalist.”
Sheikh was born in East London but became radicalized during his time in the early 20’s while providing relief to Muslims in the Balkans. He traveled to Pakistan, where he joined an Islamic militant group and was sent to Afghanistan for training.
Among the evidence presented during the Supreme Court’s appeal was a handwritten letter written by Sheikh in 2019, in which he described the “relatively minor” role in Pearl’s murder that did not guarantee the death penalty He confessed.
This was the first time the sheikh had confessed to knowing Pearl, after which he had denied involvement in the incident.
In the letter, Sheikh blamed the killing on Pakistani Islamic militant Ata-ur-Rehman, alias Naeem Bukhari, who has since been hanged on terrorism charges.
Sheikh’s lawyer, Mahmoud A. Sheikh, said the letter was written under strictures and “has to be seen in the context in which it was written”.
He added: “All the allegations are fabricated and fake. No animal was treated worse in prison.
Sheikh said that he was made a scapegoat by the former dictator general [Pervez] The Musharraf government is under increasing pressure from the US government.
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