Daniel Pearl: Court orders release of man accused in journalist’s murder

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copyrightGetty Images
captionAhmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was convicted of Daniel Perle’s murder in 2002 and acquitted in 2020
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A Pakistani court has ordered the release of the British-born militant accused of killing a US journalist in 2002.

Omar Sheikh was acquitted of Daniel Perl’s murder earlier this year but had remained in jail while the decision was appealed.

The Sindh Supreme Court in Karachi has now ruled that Sheikh’s temporary detention was illegal.

A lawyer for Mr Sheikh said he could be released within the next 24 hours.

The abduction and gruesome beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl in the southern city of Karachi led to shock and revolt.

Sir. Sheikh was arrested days after Perl’s kidnapping and later convicted of the murder of an anti-terror court. He had been on death row since the verdict.

But in April this year, the Sindh Supreme Court downgraded Mr Sheikh’s conviction of the minor crime of kidnapping and acquitted three other men linked to the case.

Mehmood Ahmed Sheikh, lawyer for British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, speaks to media representatives outside Sindh High CourtcopyrightEPA
captionSheikh’s lawyer spoke to the media outside Sindh High Court on Thursday

The decision led to condemnation from Perle’s family. They and the Pakistani government have challenged the decision in an ongoing case.

It is not yet clear whether more measures can be used to detain Mr Sheikh while the appeal is being processed.

What happened to Daniel Pearl?

Pearl, who was the head of the Wall Street Journal for South Asia, disappeared in January 2002.

He had investigated links between Islamist militant activity in Karachi and Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a passenger plane using bombs hidden in his shoes.

Prosecutors accused Mr Sheikh of luring him to a meeting with an Islamic priest. Pearl and Mr. Sheikh had built a relationship that discussed concern over their wives, who were both pregnant at the time.

undated file photo of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who disappeared in the Pakistani port city of Karachi on January 23, 2002copyrightGetty Images
captionPearl disappeared in Karachi in 2002 while studying extremism

Shortly after Pearl disappeared, Pakistani and American news organizations received emails from the previously unknown national movement for the restoration of Pakistani sovereignty. The group made a list of demands, including better treatment of Pakistani prisoners in the United States.

Nearly a month later, a video showing 38-year-old Perle being beheaded was sent to the US Consulate in Karachi.

Who is Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh?

Born in London in 1973, Mr Sheikh attended an independent school before studying at the London School of Economics. He did not graduate, failed to return after driving assistance to Bosnia after his first year.

He was arrested in India in 1994 and served in prison in connection with the kidnapping of four tourists – three Britons and one American.

He was released from prison as part of demands from militants who hijacked a plane in 1999.

In US media reports citing government officials, Mr Sheikh has been accused of transferring money to one of the militants involved in the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

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