Pakistan court overturns conviction in murder of United States journalist Daniel Pearl

Nellie Chapman
April 2, 2020

On Thursday, a Pakistani court set aside the death sentence awarded to Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born militant convicted for the kidnapping and murder of the American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.

The court also acquitted and released three other men who were given life sentences over the killing.

Saeed was found guilty in 2002 of orchestrating the kidnapping, terrorism and murder, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The court commuted his death sentence to a prison term of seven years, lawyer Khawaja Naveed said.

"The murder charges were not proven, so he [court] has given seven years for the kidnapping", Naveed told Reuters by telephone.

Saeed has already spent 18 years in prison in southern Hyderabad on death row.

A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the United States consulate in the city almost a month later. Video emerged a few weeks later of his murder.

A two-member bench of the high court of Sindh province issued the order in the city of Karachi on Thursday, Naveed said.

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Some of the inmates escaped while others were recaptured after officers set up road blocks surrounding the buildings. On Monday, corrections officials assured the public they had regained control of the prison.

Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.

Deputy Prosecutor General Saleem Akhtar had supported the trial court's verdict and submitted that the prosecution had proved its case against the appellants beyond a shadow of doubt and had requested the court to dismiss the appeals.

Another lawyer not involved in the case told Reuters that Pakistan would likely have to release all of the accused while any appeal was filed.

"Legally they can not stop their release in this particular case", Farooq said.

Saeed had been arrested in 1994 by Indian authorities, accused of kidnapping three Britons and an American, who were all freed unharmed, in Indian-ruled Kashmir, Hindu India's only Muslim- dominated region.

He was one of three men released from an Indian prison after militants hijacked an Indian airliner in late 1999 and flew it to Afghanistan, where the then-ruling Taliban regime helped negotiate an exchange with the Indian government officials. Ahmed Omer Sheikh, the main accused, is a British national.

The investigation, led by Pearl's friend and former Wall Street Journal colleague Asra Nomani and a Georgetown University professor, claimed the reporter was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 2001 attacks, not Sheikh.

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