The United States is deeply concerned by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision to acquit and release the main suspect in the 2002 kidnapping and murder of former Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, Secretary Of State Antony J.Blinken said on Jan. 28.
Pearl, 38, was working as the South Asia bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal in 2002 and investigating Islamic terrorist in Karachi after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States when he was kidnapped. A video of his beheading emerged weeks later.
On Thursday, the court ordered the release of Pakistani-British man Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh after he was acquitted by a panel of three judges.
“The United States recognizes past Pakistani actions to hold Omar Sheikh accountable and notes that Sheikh currently remains detained under Pakistani law. We expect the Pakistani government to expeditiously review its legal options to ensure justice is served,” Blinken wrote.
“We take note of the Attorney General’s statement that he intends to seek review and recall of the decision,” he said.
Blinken said that the United States is “also prepared to prosecute Sheikh in the United States for his horrific crimes against an American citizen.”
The Secretary Of State added that the government is committed to securing justice for Daniel Pearl’s family and holding the terrorists accountable.
It comes as the new administration reviews the Afghanistan peace process, in which Pakistan is a key player.
Sheikh was among four men arrested in 2002 and convicted of the kidnap and murder of Pearl in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi. However, Sheikh always denied his role in his killing.
He had previously been given the death penalty. But in April last year, the Sindh High Court in Karachi commuted Sheikh’s sentence from execution for murder to seven years in jail for kidnapping, and acquitted three co-defendants accused in the case, citing lack of evidence.
The Pakistani government and Pearl’s parents challenged that decision and pleaded to the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty.
But on Thursday, after a majority 2-1 ruling, the supreme court judges turned down both pleas.
Prior to Pearl’s death, Sheikh had previously been indicted in the United States in 1994 for the kidnapping of another U.S. citizen in India.
In regards to Sheikh’s current situation, his lawyer, Mahmood A Sheikh, said that his client may be released as soon as Friday.
“It depends upon how fast the government of Sindh will be in obeying and implementing the order of supreme court of Pakistan,” Sheikh said.
“Sheikh is in their custody and the Sindh government can release him tomorrow if they want. It’s on them.”
Pakistan’s attorney general said in a statement that authorities in Sindh, the southern Pakistani province where Pearl was abducted, would file a petition “at the earliest” asking the Supreme Court to review its decision.