UK-born Omar Sheikh confessed to his role in the 2002 killing.
Pakistan’s highest court has ordered the release of an Islamist sentenced to death for the kidnapping and beheading of the American journalist Daniel Pearl.
Omar Saeed Sheikh, the main suspect in the killing, and three other co-conspirators “are to be released immediately if they are not required in any other case,” the Pakistan Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
British-born Omar Sheikh confessed to his role in the 2002 killing. Sheikh lured Pearl to Karachi, where he was beheaded and dumped in a shallow grave. The video of the gruesome decapitation emerged weeks after Pearl’s disappearance.
Pearl, The Wall Street Journal‘s South Asia bureau chief, was investigating the link between the Al Qaeda and Richard C. Reid, the “shoe bomber,” who tried to blow up a Paris-to-Miami flight in 2002.
Al Qaeda’s 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad boasted of beheading Pearl personally.
“I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl,” Mohammad told U.S. investigators in 2003 after authorities caught him in a hideout in Pakistan.
The Associated Press reported the Pakistan top court’s ruling:
Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered on Thursday the release of a Pakistani-British man convicted and later acquitted in the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.
The court also dismissed an appeal of Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh’s acquittal filed by Pearl’s family and the Pakistani government.
A minister in the Sindh province where Sheikh is being held said the government had exhausted all options to keep him locked up — an indication Sheikh could be free within days. The “Supreme Court is the court of last resort,” Murtaza Wahab, Sindh’s law minister, told The Associated Press.
“The Pearl family is in complete shock by the majority decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to acquit and release Ahmed Omer Sheikh and the other accused persons who kidnapped and killed Daniel Pearl,” the Pearl family said in a statement released by their lawyer, Faisal Siddiqi.
We at Legal Insurrection have followed Pearl’s gruesome killing and its aftermath. Professor William A. Jacobson provided an overview of the case in a February 2017 post marking the fifteenth anniversary of the murder.
The White House expressed its anger over the court’s decision.
President Joe Biden’s administration is “outraged by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. She described the ruling as “an affront to terrorism victims everywhere” and urged Pakistan’s government to “review its legal options.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the ruling “an affront to terrorism victims everywhere, including Pakistan.”
In December, outgoing Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen had expressed the U.S.’s willingness to extradite Pearl’s killers from Pakistan. It is unclear if Biden’s administration will follow that path.
The U.S. gives billions of dollars in military and development-related aid to Pakistan.
“Daniel Pearl’s killing was an abomination, and anyone who played a role in it should be held accountable,” National Press Club President Lisa Matthews demanded. “Pakistan’s government should extradite Pearl’s alleged kidnappers to the United States for trial.”
Going by the track record of Muslim states’ handling of wanted terrorists, there may be little prospect of success in extraditing Pearl’s murderers.
Ahlam al-Tamimi, the woman who allegedly helped bomb a Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, is living freely in Jordan, a purported U.S. ally. The bombing killed 14 people, including a pregnant American tourist. Al-Tamimi is treated like a celebrity in Jordan.DONATE
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