Pakistan seeks review of Supreme court order to release Pearl murder suspects
Islamabad, Jan 29 (efe-epa).- The government of Pakistan’s Sindh province on Friday filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a review of its decision to release the main accused and three other suspects in the 2002 murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
“The Sindh government filed a petition in the Supreme Court today to review its decision of releasing all the convicts in the case,” Sindh Prosecutor General Fiaz Shah told EFE.
The petition comes a day after the country’s top court rejected appeals by the provincial government and Pearl’s family against the Sindh High Court’s verdict in April commuting the death sentence of the main suspect and the life sentences of the three others.
The United States reacted strongly to the verdict 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 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.
On Apr. 2, the Sindh High Court had commuted Sheikh’s death sentence, acquitting him of murder and modifying his punishment 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.
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.
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 it was he who had beheaded Pearl. EFE-EPA