Pakistan: Man accused of murdering Daniel Pearl could be released this week

Pakistan’s Supreme Court paves way for release of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was convicted of involvement in murder of Jewish journalist.

Ben Ariel ,

Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl

A ruling by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday paves the way for a man convicted of involvement in the gruesome 2002 murder of Jewish-American journalist Daniel Pearl to walk free later this week, The Associated Press reported on Monday.

The Supreme Court refused a government request to suspend a lower court’s ruling exonerating Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh of Pearl’s murder before a 90-day detention order expires on Thursday.

The Supreme Court also refused to immediately hear the appeal and instead said the appeal would be heard on September 25.

Saeed Sheikh was ordered to remain in detention in April after the Sindh High Court overturned the murder conviction and death sentence, generating outrage from Pearl’s family, the US government and media rights groups.

The 90-day detention was ordered under a public order regulation that allows detainees to be held longer if their release could incite violence and chaos.

The lower court upheld a kidnapping charge that carries a seven-year sentence. Saeed Sheikh has been in prison for 18 years, all spent on death row.

Pearl’s parents have also filed an appeal to Pakistan’s Supreme Court challenging the lower court’s ruling.

The government prosecutor, Faiz Shah, declined to say whether the government would seek an extension of Saeed Sheikh’s detention. Saeed Sheikh’s lawyer said a review board would have to be established to extend his detention.

Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was kidnapped in Pakistan in early 2002 while working on a story about jihadists. A videotape received by US diplomats in February of that year confirmed that the 38-year-old had been beheaded.

The Pearl Project, an investigative journalism team at Georgetown University, carried out a three-year investigation into Pearl’s kidnapping and death. They concluded the reporter was beheaded by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and later described as the architect of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Mohammad is a prisoner at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.