ISLAMABAD – The Pakistani Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of a Pakistani man who was convicted and acquitted in 2002 for the cruel beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
The court also dismissed an appeal against Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh’s acquittal by Perle’s family and the Pakistani government.
Sheikh has been on death row since he was sentenced to death in 2002 for Pearl. His lawyer said Sheikh “should not have spent a day in jail”.
Lawyer Mehmood A. Sheikh, no relative, said the court had also ordered the release of three other Pakistani men who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for their part in Perle’s abduction and death.
“Today’s decision is a total travesty of justice, and the release of these killers puts journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan at risk,” said the Pearl family in a statement from their attorney Faisal Siddiqi.
The three-judge Supreme Court ruled 2-1 in favor of maintaining Sheikh’s acquittal and ordered his release, Siddiqi said.
Washington previously said it would require Sheikh to be extradited to the United States to be tried. The U.S. embassy did not immediately respond to the court order confirming the appeal.
“We urge the US government to take all legally required measures to correct this injustice. We also hope that the Pakistani authorities will take all necessary steps to rectify this travesty of justice, “said the Pearl family.
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Siddiqi, the Pearl family lawyer, said the only legal avenue following the court’s decision to uphold Sheikh’s acquittal is to request a review of the court’s decision. However, he said the review will be carried out by the same court that upheld the appeal. “In practice,” there are no other legal options in Pakistan, he said.
Sheikh was convicted of luring Pearl to a meeting in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi, where he was kidnapped. Pearl had investigated the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, known as the “shoe bomber” after attempting to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes.
Pearl disappeared on January 23 when he was investigating militant links with the so-called shoe bomber. His body was discovered in a shallow grave shortly after a gruesome video of his beheading was delivered to the US consulate in Karachi.