Crime & Justice

Islamist absolved of Daniel Pearl killing to exit death row

Islamabad, Feb 2 (efe-epa).- The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the transfer from death row to a safe house of an Islamist acquitted of the 2002 murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl, while studying the preventive detention order against him.

Salman Talibuddin, the attorney general of Sindh Province, where Omer Sheikh was tried, explained to EFE that the Supreme Court has agreed to keep the Islamist “under custody” but out of jail.

Sheikh will thus be transferred to a government “safe house” in the coming days.

“The Supreme Court allows us to keep him in custody while (it) is hearing the appeal,” said Talibuddin.

Sheikh will be kept under watch in the new residence, where he can receive visits from his family, but will not be permitted to use phones or the internet.

The Sindh High Court had commuted Sheikh’s death sentence in a decision on Apr. 2. The court had acquitted Sheikh, a British born Islamist, of murder and modified his sentence to seven years in prison, on lesser charges.

The accused had been in jail on death row for about 18 years and was expected to be released soon since the seven-year sentence would have counted as time served, but the provincial government ordered his rearrest and has kept him in preventive custody until now.

The life sentences of other three convicts in the same case had also been commuted, although they have also remained under custody since the verdict.

The government of Sindh had extended the suspects’ custody while the Supreme Court was hearing the appeals separately filed by prosecutors and Pearl’s family.

The United States reacted strongly to the verdict last week and demanded justice for Pearl, a journalist for the US-based daily Wall Street Journal.

“I am deeply concerned by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision to acquit those involved in Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said in a tweet.

On Thursday the US State Department had said that it was ready to try the main suspect, Ahmed Omar Sheikh, in a US court “for his horrific crimes against an American citizen.”

“We are committed to securing justice for Daniel Pearl’s family and holding terrorists accountable,” the statement further said.

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. EFE-EPA


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