Court orders release of those accused in Daniel Pearl killing
Islamabad, Dec 24 (efe-epa)- The Sindh High Court in Pakistan on Thursday declared null and void a warrant for the pre-trial detention of the main accused in the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl, and ordered his release.
“The court ordered to release Khalid Sheikh and three other accomplices,” the prosecutor general of the southeastern province of Sindh, Fiaz Shah, told EFE.
Shah said they will appeal the decision before the Supreme Court, which in September had temporarily suspended the release of Sheikh and his three alleged accomplices in the 2002 kidnapping and murder of the correspondent of American newspaper Wall Street Journal.
The four accused, however, will not be permitted to leave the country, according to the order issued by the high court.
Although Sheikh, a British born Islamist, was sentenced to death by a lower court, in April the High Court acquitted him of murder and modified his sentence to seven years in prison, on lesser charges.
The accused has been in jail on death row for about 18 years and was expected to be released soon since the seven-year sentence would be counted as time served.
However, the provincial government ordered his rearrest and kept him in preventive custody until now despite the High Court decision.
The three alleged accomplices were also rearrested after being declared not guilty by the High Court.
The period of arrest was to continue until the Supreme Court examined the appeals of the public prosecutor’s office and the Pearl family against the release of their alleged killers, a process that still continues.
Pearl, 38, disappeared on Jan. 23, 2002 in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi while he was investigating links between radical Islamic groups in Pakistan and Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terrorist network.
According to Pakistani police, he was decapitated on Feb. 21 by his captors, thought to be members of the Muslim extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammad.
The trial of the four suspected Islamic militants accused of killing Pearl was conducted behind closed doors in Karachi by an anti-terrorist court.
Later that year, Sheikh – a British-born Islamist radical – was sentenced to death for Pearl’s murder, while the three others were sentenced to life imprisonment. EFE-EPA