World #2: Pakistan frees terrorists who murdered American journalist Daniel Pearl

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on February 2, 2021

(by Darryl Coote, UPI) — A three-judge panel of the Pakistani Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of the British-born militant who was convicted of killing American reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.

By a 2-1 vote, the court ordered that Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh be released and rejected appeals by Pearl’s family and a regional Pakistani government to keep him imprisoned.

The court also ordered that three other Pakistani nationals serving life sentences for Pearl’s kidnapping and death also be freed. They were convicted of terrorism charges.

Sheikh, 47, has been on death row in Pakistan for 18 years since his conviction.

Pearl, a reporter and South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, had been investigating terror group al-Qaida and so-called “shoe bomber” Richard Reid when he disappeared in Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002. A gruesome video later surfaced that showed he was beheaded.

Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Last month, the provincial Sindh High Court downgraded Sheikh’sconviction to kidnapping and ordered that he be released. The court also acquitted the other three. Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling upheld the Sindh court’s decision.

[Less than six months after Daniel Pearl’s horrific murder, Sheikh was convicted of kidnapping for ransom, terrorism and murder, and he was sentenced to death. Three other alleged accomplices were given life in prison. The same lower court that overturned Sheikh’s convictions also overturned those of the other three men.  Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that they, too, should be freed].

The Supreme Court’s vote was partly based on a handwritten note from Sheikh in 2019 that acknowledged he’d played a “minor” role in Pearl’s killing. It was the first time in nearly 20 years he’d admitted any involvement.  [ReportersWithoutBorders notes: “A week before the release of a video showing Pearl being beheaded, Sheikh had boasted of orchestrating his abduction during an appearance before a court in Karachi”].

“Today’s decision is a complete travesty of justice and the release of these killers puts in danger journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan,” the Pearl family said Thursday.

“We urge the U.S. government to take all necessary actions under the law to correct this injustice.”

In December, then-Acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen under President Donald Trump said federal prosecutors were prepared to try Sheikh for Pearl’s death in the United States.

On Thursday, Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson reiterated that stance.

“The United States stands ready to take custody of Sheikh to stand trial here on the pending* charges against him,” Wilkinson said in a statement. “He must not be permitted to evade justice.” [*Unclear why AG Wilkinson calls the charges against Sheikh “pending” as he was convicted and sentenced to death by a Pakistani court  in 2002.]

He also said the release of those involved in Pearl’s death was “an affront” to his family, to other terrorism victims around the world and to justice.

On Thursday, the Sindh prosecutor general handling the Pearl family appeal said the regional court would wait for an official written verdict before asking the Supreme Court to review the petition. Such reviews are rarely successful, he said.

Published at UPI on Jan. 28. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission.


Pearl had been investigating the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, dubbed the “shoe bomber” after his attempt to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes.

[His killers recorded video of his murder and beheading and delivered the footage to the US consulate in Karachi.] Pearl’s body was discovered in a shallow grave soon after a video of his beheading was delivered to the U.S. Consulate.

The Pentagon in 2007 released a transcript in which Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, said he had killed Pearl.

“I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl,” the transcript quoted Mohammed as saying. Mohammad first disclosed his role while he was held in CIA custody. He remains in the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay and has never been charged with the journalist's death. (from a Jan. 28 AP report)