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Pakistan court frees man accused of beheading US journalist Daniel Pearl

Pakistan court orders man accused in American's death freed

Pakistan court frees man accused of beheading US journalist Daniel Pearl

British-born Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh was jailed in 2002, convicted of masterminding the kidnap and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl. (Photo: AFP/Aamir Qureshi)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday (Jan 28) dismissed a series of appeals against the acquittal of a British-born militant convicted of masterminding the kidnap and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl, paving the way for his release.

Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh has been on death row since his conviction in 2002.

"The court has come out to say that there is no offence that he has committed in this case," Sheikh’s attorney told AFP, adding that he "should not have spent one day in jail". 

The ruling follows an international outcry last year after a lower court cleared Sheikh of murder and reduced his conviction to a lesser charge of kidnapping, overturning his death sentence and ordering his release after almost two decades in prison.

His attorney, Mehmood A Sheikh, no relation, said the court also ordered the release of three other Pakistanis sentenced to life in prison for their part in Pearl’s death.

There was no word on when they will be released following Thursday's decision.

The court also dismissed an appeal against Sheikh's acquittal launched by Pearl's family. 

"Today’s decision is a complete travesty of justice and the release of these killers puts in danger journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan. We urge the US government to take all necessary actions under the law to correct this injustice," the Pearl family said in a statement released by their lawyer.

Washington previously said it would demand Sheikh be extradited to the US to be tried there. In a statement last month, the then-US acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said that America "stands ready to take custody of Omar Sheikh to stand trial here" after labelling the acquittal "an affront to terrorism victims everywhere".

There was no immediate reaction from the US Embassy to the court order upholding the appeal.

Pearl was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in Karachi on Jan 23, 2002 while researching a story about Islamist militants.

Nearly a month later, after a string of ransom demands were made, a graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate in Karachi. His body was discovered in a shallow grave soon after.

Source: AGENCIES/vc

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