Court commutes Daniel Pearl murderer’s death sentence to seven-year imprisonment

Cheryl Sanders
April 2, 2020

"He will be out in a few days", Khawaja Naveed, a defense lawyer in the case, told Reuters.

Sheikh was convicted shortly afterwards by an anti-terrorism court, but there have always been questions over the case.

"We will go through the court order once it is issued, we will probably file an appeal", Faiz Shah, the provincial prosecutor general, told Reuters by telephone.

At least four people were convicted in connection with Pearl's murder, including Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who was sentenced to death in 2002 for masterminding the killing. "Omar has already served 18 years, so his release orders will be issued sometime today", Naveed added.

Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, was abducted and beheaded while he was in Pakistan investigating a story on the alleged links between the country's powerful spy agency ISI and al-Qaeda.

However, a report released by the Pearl Project at Georgetown University in January 2011 had claimed the wrong men were convicted for Pearl's murder.

Prosecutors said Saeed lured Pearl into a trap by promising to arrange an interview with an Islamic cleric who police believe was not involved in the conspiracy.

An American psychologist who talked to Mohammed said he had confessed to beheading Pearl, according to AFP. Mohammad is a prisoner at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Soon after Pearl disappeared, Pakistani and USA news organizations received emails from the previously unknown National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. The statement was ruled inadmissible because it was not made under oath.

Sheikh, who was born in Britain and studied at the London School of Economics, was arrested in India in the 1990s for his involvement in the kidnapping of western tourists in 1994.

Since 1989, an insurgency in Indian-held Kashmir has been demanding either outright independence for a united Kashmir or union with Muslim-majority Pakistan.

The incident came three years after Sheikh, along with Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, was released by India in 1999 and given safe passage to Afghanistan in exchange for the almost 150 passengers of hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814.

The Pearl kidnapping was the first of five attacks against Westerners in Pakistan in 2002.

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