Washington, United States:
The White House said it was “outraged” Thursday after the Pakistani Supreme Court upheld the acquittal and ordered the release of the militant convicted of beheading US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.
Joe Biden’s administration is “outraged by the decision of the Pakistani Supreme Court,” his spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, underscoring the uncomfortable alliance between Washington and Islamabad, which has been broken many times because of Islamist militancy.
She called the verdict “an affront to victims of terrorism everywhere” and called on the Pakistani government to “review their legal options.”
The White House statement came after the Pakistani Supreme Court upheld the acquittal of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who had been convicted of jihadists’ brutal murder of Pearl, head of the South Asian bureau for the Wall Street Journal.
Perle’s murder – which was filmed – caused international shock and outrage.
“The court has found that there is no crime he (Sheikh) has committed in this case,” Mahmood Sheikh, who represented the defendant, told AFP.
A court order said that Sheikh should be “released immediately” along with three accomplices linked to the case, although it was not clear when this would happen.
Pearl was researching a story about militant Islamists when he was kidnapped in January 2002 in the southern port city of Karachi in Sindh Province.
Almost a month later, after a series of ransom demands, officials were shown a graphic video of his beheading.
Sheikh, a British-born jihadist who once studied at the London School of Economics and was involved in previous abductions of foreigners, was arrested days after Perle’s kidnapping.
He was later sentenced to death after telling a Karachi court that Pearl was killed days before the gruesome video of the journalist’s beheading was released.
Perle’s family on Thursday called the decision to free him “a travesty of justice” and called for US intervention in the case.
“The release of these killers puts journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan at risk. We urge the US government to take all legally necessary measures to correct this injustice,” the family said in a statement.
– “Impunity” –
Reporters Without Borders also criticized the ruling, saying it would “remain a symbol of the absolute impunity associated with violent crimes against journalists in this country.”
The verdict follows an outcry last year when a lower court acquitted the 47-year-old sheikh of murder and reduced his conviction to a lesser charge of kidnapping – overturning his death sentence and releasing him after nearly two decades in prison.
This sparked a number of petitions, including from Perle’s family, but the Supreme Court dismissed them in Thursday’s separate ruling, upholding the acquittal.
For years, Sheikh had denied killing Pearl personally, but the Supreme Court heard earlier this week that he had admitted to playing a “minor role” in a handwritten 2019 letter sent to a provincial court.
Perle’s family lawyers have argued that Sheikh played a crucial role in organizing the kidnapping and detention of the journalist before ordering his kidnappers to kill him.
However, defense lawyers say he was a scapegoat and was convicted of insufficient evidence.
Sheikh and the three other men were detained by the Sindh provincial government on urgent orders, which said they pose a threat to the public.
Late Thursday, the Sindh government said it would file a petition for review of the Supreme Court ruling.
It wasn’t clear how long this might take, but Pakistan’s attorney general said in a statement that the federal government “fully supports” the provincial government on the matter.
– USA “ready to take custody” –
Last month, US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said Washington was “ready to take custody of Omar Sheikh to stand on trial.”
Psaki said Thursday the United States had “acknowledged past Pakistani actions to try to bring Mr Pearl’s killers to justice and we note that Omar Sheikh is currently in custody”.
“We urge the Pakistani government to swiftly examine its legal options, including allowing the United States to prosecute Sheikh for the brutal murder of an American citizen and journalist.”
Following an investigation into the murder in January 2011, a report published by the Pearl Project at Georgetown University revealed terrifying revelations, alleging the wrong men had been convicted of Perle’s murder.
The investigation found that the reporter was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The report also detailed information on Sheikh’s alleged role in orchestrating the abduction of Pearl.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)