Islamabad, Apr 2 (efe-epa).- A court in Pakistan on Thursday reversed the murder conviction of a man who was found guilty and sentenced to death for the kidnapping and killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.
The Sindh High Court in south Pakistan, however, upheld Ahmed Omer Sheikh’s conviction on the lesser charge of abduction and sentenced him to seven years in jail.
“The court said that the murder charge against him was not proved and only kidnapping was proved,” Khawaja Naveed, a defense lawyer, told EFE.
The court said that Omer Sheikh had kidnapped the United States correspondent and then handed him over to other people, who murdered him.
Omer Sheikh, a British-born Pakistani, has been in jail on death row for about 18 years. He is expected to be released soon since the seven-year sentence is likely to be counted as time served.
The court also acquitted Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil, and Salman Saqib, sentenced to life in prison in the case.
Pearl, 38, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, 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-Muhammad.
US consulate officials received a videotape showing one of Pearl`s kidnappers slitting this throat and stabbing him in the chest, although experts said they believe he was already dead when the grisly scene was filmed.
The trial of four suspected Islamic militants accused of killing Pearl was conducted behind closed doors in Karachi by the anti-terrorist court.
Later that year, Omer Sheikh was sentenced to death by a Pakistani court for Pearl’s murder, while three others were sentenced to life imprisonment.
But in 2011, Georgetown University Pearl Project, which investigated the murder, claimed that Omer Sheikh and the other three had been wrongly convicted.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sep 11 attacks on the twin towers in the US and lodged in the Guantanamo prison in Cuba, confessed in 2007 that he beheaded Pearl. EFE-EPA