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Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh had been on death row since his 2002 conviction
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh had been on death row since his 2002 convictionImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Z. Mazhar
SocietyAsia

Pakistan court frees man charged with US journalist killing

December 24, 2020

British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was acquitted by a provincial court earlier this year for the murder of Daniel Pearl. The Supreme Court had barred his release following the Sindh High Court decision.

https://p.dw.com/p/3nBUZ

A provincial court in Pakistan on Thursday ordered police to release Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the man charged with the 2002 murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl, according to the defense lawyer, Mehmood A Sheikh.

In September, the country's Supreme Court ruled that Sheikh must remain in custody while an appeal against his acquittal was heard.

"The court has set aside the detention orders," his lawyer Khawaja Naveed told DPA news agency.

Earlier this year, the Sindh High Court overturned the death sentence for Sheikh, who had been on death row since his conviction in 2002, along with three alleged accomplices. The decision sparked outrage, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing contempt for the decision.

Both the Pakistani government and Pearl's family have appealed against Sheikh's acquittal. The Supreme Court will resume its hearing on January 5, 2021.

Who was Daniel Pearl?

Pearl, the New Delhi-based South Asia correspondent for the US newspaper The Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped and killed in the southern Karachi city in 2002.

Pearl traveled to Karachi from New Delhi following the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and was kidnapped and killed in early 2002.

A graphic video showing the beheading of the 38-year-old journalist was delivered to the US Embassy around one month later.

A photo from during Pearl's kidnapping shows him holding a copy of an English-language Pakistani newspaper
A photo from during Pearl's kidnapping shows him holding a copy of an English-language Pakistani newspaperImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Washington Post

Nine years later, an investigation led by Pearl's friend and former colleague Asra Nomani and a Georgetown University professor made chilling revelations, claiming the wrong men were convicted for Pearl's murder.

The report claimed the reporter was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, not Sheikh. Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and is being held in Guantanamo Bay.

Pearl's murder at the time put pressure on Pakistan's then-military government, which was trying to distance itself from the Taliban and other Islamist groups.

shs/mm (AP, dpa)

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