Pakistan’s high court orders release of man accused in Daniel Pearl killing


LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The U.S. government and the parents of Daniel Pearl are forcefully protesting the ordered release of the man accused of masterminding the journalist’s kidnapping and beheading.

London-born Ahmed Omar Said Sheikh was ordered to be released from prison on Thursday by a 2 to 1 decision of the Pakistani Supreme Court. The government in the Pakistani province of Sindh filed a petition Friday asking the court to revisit its decision, the Associated Press reported.

“Ahmed Omar Said Sheikh has long been indicted in the United States and must be held accountable for his crimes,” Acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson said in a statement.

“The United States stands ready to take custody of Sheikh to stand trial on the pending charges against him,” Wilkinson added. “He must not be permitted to evade justice for his charged role in Daniel Pearl’s abduction and murder.”

Sheikh was one of four men acquitted of Pearl’s murder in April but kept in jail on executive orders as prosecutors appealed. In December, a Karachi court ordered their release, calling their detainment illegal.

Sheikh, who had previously been convicted of helping to lure Pearl to a meeting prior to his abduction, had long denied involvement. But in a 2019 letter delivered to the Supreme Court several weeks ago, Sheikh admitted playing a minor role in the killing, AP reported.

“Today, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has handed an indictment to an entire nation, institutionally, culturally and morally, for one of the most horrific crimes of the century, which forever will stain the moral standing of that nation,” the Pearl family said in a statement. “We urge the U.S. Department of Justice to vigorously pursue a request for extraditing Omar Sheikh to stand a trial in the U.S., and we hope Pakistan responds positively to such a request to rectify the injustice brought about by two of the three justices.”

Pearl was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted and beheaded in Karachi in 2002 while researching a story about Islamist militants. He was 38.

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