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Pakistani court overturns conviction, death sentence in American Daniel Pearl’s murder

U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl (David/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A Pakistani court has overturned a death sentence and murder conviction imposed on a British-born militant over the 2002 killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

Defense lawyer Khawja Naveed said that, in handing down the decision, a two-member bench of the High Court of Sindh Province reduced Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh’s sentence to seven years in prison for kidnapping.

Since Sheikh has been in prison since 2002, he was expected to be released, but the court had yet to issue such an order, Naveed added.

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

A video showing Pearl’s decapitation was delivered to the U.S. consulate in Karachi nearly a month later.

Sheikh, a former student at the London School of Economics, was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court, while three other defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Naveed said those three had been acquitted by the court in its new ruling.

Faiz Shah, the provincial prosecutor-general, said he intends to appeal the ruling.

“We will go through the court order once it is issued, we will probably file an appeal,” Shah told Reuters.

In January 2011, a report released by the Pearl Project, an investigative journalism team at Georgetown University in Washington, claimed that the wrong men were convicted for Pearl’s murder.

The investigation claimed the reporter was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and is being held in the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.