Crime & Justice

Pakistan rearrests man acquitted of murdering American journalist

Islamabad, Apr 3 (efe-epa).- Pakistani authorities on Friday ordered the rearrest of a radical Islamist for a period of 90 days, a day after he was acquitted of murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002, along with three other accused.

“The release of the said accused will create (a) serious law and order situation, therefore (the police) has recommended that they may be detained for a period of 3 months,” the Home Department of the southern Sindh province said in its order.

The Sindh High Court had on Thursday had overturned the murder conviction of Ahmed Omar Sheikh – the main accused in the case – although upholding his conviction on the lesser charge of abduction and sentencing him to seven years in jail.

This would have resulted in a release, as Sheikh has been behind bars and on death row since 2002.

The court had also acquitted Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil, and Salman Saqib, who had been serving life sentences in the case. The police order also barred their release despite their acquittals.

Sheikh’s lawyer Khawaja Naveed confirmed to EFE that the four men remain in prison and vowed to move court against the government order.

“We intend to file a petition in the high court against the detention order of the Sindh government,” he said.

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-Mohammad.

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 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.

But in 2011, the 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 United States and lodged in the Guantanamo prison in Cuba, reportedly confessed in 2007 that he had beheaded Pearl. EFE-EPA


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