Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ordered the release of a Pakistani man convicted but recently acquitted in the gruesome beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.
The court also dismissed an appeal of Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh’s acquittal by Mr Pearl’s family.
Mr Sheikh has been on death row since his conviction in the death of Mr Pearl in 2002. His attorney said Mr Sheikh “should not have spent one day in jail.”
Attorney Mehmood A. Sheikh, no relation, said the court ordered three other Pakistanis, who had been sentenced to life in prison for their part in Mr Pearl’s kidnapping and death, also freed.
“Today’s decision is a complete travesty of justice and the release of these killers puts in danger journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan,” the Pearl family said in a statement released by their lawyer, Faisal Siddiqi.
Washington previously said it would demand Mr Sheikh be extradited to the United States to be tried there. There was no immediate reaction from the US Embassy to the court order upholding the appeal.
Mr Pearl, 38, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal from Encino, California, disappeared in Pakistan on January 23, 2002, while investigating Islamist militants in Karachi after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States
“We urge the US Government to take all necessary actions under the law to correct this injustice. We also hope that the Pakistani authorities will take all necessary steps to rectify this travesty of justice,” the Pearl family said.
Mr Siddiqi, the Pearl family lawyer, said the only legal avenue following the court’s decision upholding Mr Sheikh’s acquittal would be to ask for a review of the court decision.
However, he said the review would be conducted by the same court that upheld the appeal.
“In practical terms” there is no further legal avenues to pursue in Pakistan, he said.
Mr Sheikh was convicted of helping lure Mr Pearl to a meeting in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi, during which he was kidnapped.
Mr Pearl had been investigating the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, dubbed the “Shoe Bomber” after trying to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes.
His body was discovered in a shallow grave soon after a gruesome video of his beheading was delivered to the US consulate in Karachi.