A Pakistani court on Thursday ordered to release four men accused of kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl, triggering a strong reaction from the United States. The key accused in the case, UK-born al-Qaeda leader Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three aides, are set to walk out of the prison on Saturday, PTI reported.
The US State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs raised deep concerns over the Pakistani court’s ruling to “release multiple terrorists responsible for the murder of Daniel Pearl”. Soon after the verdict, the US State Department said the government has been assured that the accused have not been released “at this time”, adding that they will be closely following the case.
“We are deeply concerned by the reports of the December 24 ruling of Sindh High Court to release multiple terrorists responsible for the murder of Daniel Pearl. We have been assured that the accused have not been released at this time,” tweeted the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.
Here’s all you need to about the Daniel Pearl murder case:
1. Daniel Pearl, an American journalist who worked as the South Asia bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, was abducted in Karachi in January 2002 while working on a story about terror groups linked to al Qaeda. About a month later, a graphic video of Pearl’s beheading was sent to the US consulate in Karachi, sparking global outrage.
2. Owing to international pressure, Sheikh and three of his aides were arrested, and, later, convicted by an anti-terrorism court in Pearl’s kidnapping and murder case. Sheikh was sentenced to death and his aides were sentenced for life in prison. In April 2020, the Sindh High Court of Karachi overturned the murder conviction and found Sheikh only guilty of kidnapping the WSJ journalist.
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3. The court commuted Sheikh’s death sentence to seven years of imprisonment, while acquitted the three others – Fahad Nasim Ahmed, Syed Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil. The Pakistan Peoples Party-led provincial government of Sindh then challenged the ruling in the Supreme Court and refused to release the four accused. The government kept them in detention under the Maintenance of Public Order for three months and extended it further under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
4. However, a division bench of the Sindh High Court expressed displeasure over the government’s decision to keep the men behind bars, declaring the detention illegal. The court ordered the government to immediately release them and asked authorities to place their names on the Exit Control List (ECL), Pakistan’s no-fly list, since the country’s top court is hearing appeals of the Sindh government and Pearl’s family against the high court’s ruling.
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