Jewish Press of Tampa

Pakistan court orders release of man accused in Daniel Pearl killing

LOS ANGELES (JTA) – The U.S. government and the parents of Daniel Pearl are forcefully protesting the ordered release of the man accused of masterminding the journalist’s kidnapping and beheading.

London-born Ahmed Omar Said Sheikh was ordered to be released from prison on Thursday, Jan. 28, by a 2-to-1 decision of the Pakistani Supreme Court.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the court’s decision “an affront to terrorism victims everywhere, including in Pakistan.”

“Ahmed Omar Said Sheikh has long been indicted in the United States and must be held accountable for his crimes,” Acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson said in a statement. “He must not be permitted to evade justice for his charged role in Daniel Pearl’s abduction and murder.”

Sheikh was one of four men acquitted of Pearl’s murder in April but kept in jail on executive orders as prosecutors appealed. In December, a Karachi court ordered their release, calling their detainment illegal.

Sheikh, who had previously been convicted of helping to lure Pearl to a meeting prior to his abduction, had long denied involvement. But in a 2019 letter delivered to the Supreme Court several weeks ago, Sheikh admitted playing a minor role in the killing, AP reported.

“We urge the U.S. Department of Justice to vigorously pursue a request for extraditing Omar Sheikh to stand a trial in the U.S., and we hope Pakistan responds positively to such a request to rectify the injustice brought about by two of the three justices,” the Pearl family said in a statement that condemned the action by the Pakistani court.

Pearl was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted and beheaded in Karachi in 2002 while researching a story about Islamist militants. He was 38.

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