Daniel Pearl after his kidnapping by terrorists
Daniel Pearl after his kidnapping by terroristsReuters

A Pakistani court on Thursday commuted the death sentence of the main person accused in the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and acquitted three other co-accused in the matter, Reuters repors.

All four had been convicted in connection with Pearl‘s kidnapping and murder, including British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was sentenced to death in 2002 for masterminding the murder. He has been in jail for 18 years awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

“No evidence has been brought on record by the prosecution to link any of the appellants to the murder of Pearl and as such all the appellants are acquitted of murder,” said a two-member bench of the Sindh High Court, in a ruling seen by Reuters.

The court also acquitted all four of charges of kidnapping the American for ransom too, and found Sheikh guilty only on the charge of abduction.

Sheik was sentenced to seven years on the abduction charge, but he is expected to be freed soon given time already served.

Pearl, 38, was investigating Islamist jihadists in Karachi after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States when he was kidnapped in January 2002. His case made headlines globally, after a video of his beheading emerged weeks after Pearl was abducted.

A senior Pakistani government law officer told Reuters via phone that the state would appeal against the Sindh High Court’s verdict.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office said the issue pertains to the Ministry of Interior “who will be looking at the judgment in detail.” The Ministry of Interior did not respond to a request for comment.

Acting US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells, said, "We welcome Pakistan's decision to appeal the verdict. Those responsible for Daniel's heinous kidnapping and murder must face the full measure of justice."

Meanwhile, Arthur Stark, Chairman, William Daroff, CEO, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said they were appalled by the Pakistani court’s decision.

"We are outraged by the decision of the Sindh High Court in Karachi​, Pakistan to acquit Ahmed Omar Sheikh​ and three others involved in the barbaric murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl z"l in 2002. It is unconscionable for these barbaric killers to go free,” they said.

“There must be a global outcry in response to this grievous injustice. All who believe in the dignity of human life must forcefully condemn this repugnant decision, and urge the prosecutors to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Pakistan​.”

“We urge the US government to press the government in Pakistan to reverse this injustice and hold the murderers of an American citizen to account," concluded the Jewish leaders.