Pakistani Court Frees Terrorist Who Killed American Journalist Daniel Pearl

On January 28th, the terrorist convicted (and later acquitted) of the 2002 abduction and beheading of Daniel Pearl, was ordered to be released by Pakistan’s Supreme Court.  The court also dismissed an appeal of the killer’s, Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh, acquittal filed by Pearl’s family and the Pakistani government.

The three-judge panel upheld a lower court's ruling that overturned the convictions of terrorist Omar Sheikh. Sheikh was convicted of abduction and murder but could now be set free. Sheikh has already served more than 18 years in prison. The judges also reversed a third conviction for kidnapping. The court advised they would explain their decision at a future date. 

American journalist, Daniel Pearl, was born in Princeton, New Jersey, to parents Judea and Ruth Pearl. His father, Judea, is an Israeli of Polish Jewish descent. His mother Ruth and her family are Iraqi Jews who were saved by their Muslim neighbors during, the Farhud, Iraq’s violent massacre of Jews in June 1941. Historians say that Jews enjoyed relatively agreeable conditions and coexistence with Iraqi Muslims until the Farhud.

Daniel and his family settled in Mumbai, India, after becoming Southeast Asia’s bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal. They traveled to Karachi, Pakistan, which he used as a base for reporting on the United States' War on Terrorism following the September 11th, 2001 attacks.

Omar Sheikh was convicted of helping lure Pearl to a meeting in Karachi's southern Pakistani city, where he was kidnapped and later beheaded. Pearl was investigating the link between Richard Reid, the notorious “shoe bomber,” and Pakistani militants. 

Daniel Pearl's body was discovered in a grave soon after the terrorists delivered a video of his beheading to the United States Consulate in Karachi. As extremists began creating propaganda videos that targeted hostages, other terror groups were motivated to film horrific acts of violence against their victims.

In April 2020, a high court in Karachi overturned the convictions of three of the terrorists. It reduced Sheikh's sentence to only seven years of incarceration, making him eligible for release based on time served. The court advised that the men "suffered irreparable harm and extreme prejudice" after 18 years in prison, then ordered all four to be set free. But both Pakistani authorities and the Pearl family appealed to Karachi’s Supreme Court, which ruled against them today.

The White House press secretary announced the US is "outraged" by the decision. She called it an "affront to terrorism victims everywhere, including in Pakistan."

Ms. Psaki noted that Mr. Sheikh remains in detention and asked the Pakistani government to expeditiously explore legal options, including allowing Sheikh to be sent to the United States for trial. “We are committed to securing justice for Daniel Pearl’s family,” she said.

Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, stated that the United States was ready to prosecute Sheikh in the US. "We expect the Pakistani government to expeditiously review its legal options to ensure justice is served," he said.

According to Pakistan’s interior ministry, the four men are currently detained after the ruling. However, following the court’s ruling, they were placed on the country’s exit control list, banning them from leaving the country.


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